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Tuesday, November 03, 2009, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

AT&T brings lawsuit against Verizon over 'Map' ad campaign

AT&T has filed a lawsuit over Verizon's "There's a Map for That" advertising campaign, claiming Verizon is misrepresenting AT&T's coverage areas.

The suit seeks a temporary restraining order and a injunction to stop Verizon from "disseminating misleading coverage maps" of AT&T's areas of cellular and data coverage. AT&T is also seeking damages in the suit.

The "Map" advertisement displays two competing 3G coverage maps, in which the Verizon coverage area is clearly more widespread than AT&T's coverage area. The suit contains an AT&T commissioned survey of the ads which found that 53 percent of those asked interpreted the non-colored areas of the maps to be total gaps in coverage.

AT&T had previously contacted Verizon directly on Oct. 7, requesting that the ads be withdrawn or modified, according to the suit. Verizon responded by dropping the words "out of touch" from the ads and included the phrase "Voice & data services available outside 3G coverage areas" in small print at the end of the advertisements.

The complaint lists two TV spots currently airing, dubbed "College" and "Bench," as well as a print advertisement that has run in various publications.

"The map attributed to AT&T shows large swaths of white or blank space, as if these are areas in which AT&T has no coverage whatsoever," the suit reads. "By depicting AT&T's non-"3G" coverage as white or blank space in the map used in Verizon's print advertisement, consumers are being misled into believing that AT&T's customers have no coverage whatsoever and thus cannot use their wireless devices when they are outside of AT&T's depicted coverage area."

The complaint was filed Tuesday in an Atlanta, Ga., federal court, and requests a temporary restraining order against Verizon to prevent the ads from continuing to air. The suit notes that the ads are airing during the "most vigorous and important marketing season for the wireless industry."



AT&T claims that the ads in their current form convey the message that AT&T has no coverage in the areas that are blank on the 3G maps that are shown. AT&T contends that the 2.5G (EDGE) network is available in a much wider area, so to imply that there is no coverage is misleading.

According to Reuters, Verizon has responded, saying that the suit is without merit and the advertisements are intended to show 3G coverage only: "The ads in question clearly state that voice and data services are available outside 3G areas."

Verizon has released a series of aggressive ads targeted toward AT&T and the iPhone specifically in conjunction with the release of Motorola's Droid phone on the Verizon network. The Droid is scheduled to be released November 6th, and is the first phone to carry Android version 2.0 along with a beta of Google Navigator. Verizon's "iDon't" ad directly compared the Droid to the iPhone, claiming that the Droid has superior features.