AT&T has lost the first battle in a legal war against Verizon Wireless to force the company to stop showing advertisements that compare its 3G wireless network coverage with Verizon's coverage.
A federal judge in Atlanta on Wednesday declined to grant AT&T a temporary restraining order that would force Verizon to stop showing the ads.
AT&T filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Atlanta earlier this month asserting that Verizon Wireless' advertisements mislead customers by suggesting that AT&T subscribers cannot access wireless Internet services throughout its network. AT&T has called the ads blatantly false and has said that the commercials have caused irreparable harm to the company.
AT&T had asked the court to keep Verizon from running the advertisements until the matter is settled in court. But the judge on Wednesday declined this request.
The advertisements that Verizon is running show two maps that each indicate 3G wireless coverage. One map shows coverage for Verizon and the other depicts AT&T's coverage.
AT&T doesn't argue that the maps are incorrect in terms of showing its 3G coverage. But it says that Verizon is misleading customers by implying that they cannot use their phones or access the mobile Web when they aren't in 3G coverage areas. The reality is that customers can make phone calls and access the Internet from their phones using the company's slower EDGE or GPR networks.
Verizon argues its advertisements are simply pointing out the fact that AT&T has not invested enough in upgrading its network to handle increased traffic from smartphone devices, such as the Apple iPhone.
Verizon has modified its ads slightly to indicate that the map applies only to 3G coverage and not regular 2.5G service, which is adequate for making voice calls and connecting to the wireless Internet at slower speeds.
Verizon said in its 53-page rebuttal to the court earlier this week that AT&T is not suing Verizon because the claims are false, but because it doesn't want to face the truth about its network.
AT&T said it plans to press on with its case despite the fact that it lost the latest legal battle.
"While we are disappointed with the court's decision on our request for a temporary restraining order, we still feel strongly that Verizon's ads mislead consumers into thinking that AT&T doesn't offer wireless service in large portions of the country, which is clearly not the case," Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, said in an e-mail. "We look forward to presenting our case to the court in the near future."