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Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 06:15 pm PT (09:15 pm ET)

AT&T faces setback in legal battle over Verizon ads [u]

A federal judge Wednesday denied AT&T's request to pull Verizon's critical commercials from the air, despite the fact that they might be "sneaky" and most TV watchers are "semi-catatonic." [Updated with new response ad by AT&T]

The judge ruled Wednesday that while the ads may be "sneaky," they are not misleading, and do not justify any action to take them off the air. The judge did state however, that most TV watchers are "semi-catatonic" and therefore can easily misinterpret information presented.

A follow-up hearing date was set for Dec. 16, giving lawyers a second chance to present their case for an injunction. Verizon has claimed that AT&T's suit is without merit

In a new ad comparing the 3G networks of AT&T and Verizon, AT&T claims that it offers a better "3G experience" when compared to Verizon. The ad, which features actor Luke Wilson, points viewers to a website, TruthAbout3G.com that contains the tag-line "When you compare, there's no comparison. AT&T. A better 3G experience."

Both the ad and website tout the speed and features of AT&T's network, with the website claiming that AT&T's 3G network covers 230 million people across the nation. The TV ad makes no mention of 3G coverage area or signal quality.



Verizon's series of ads compare 3G coverage maps of the two companies, with Verizon's maps covering more of the United States than AT&T. The accuracy of the maps are not what is in question, AT&T concedes that they do show the overall 3G coverage areas of both networks. AT&T called the ads in question "false and misleading" because they confuse customers into believing that AT&T has no coverage in the areas highlighted as being devoid of 3G coverage.

AT&T had previously contacted Verizon on Oct. 7, requesting that the ads be withdrawn or modified. Verizon responded by dropping the phrase "out of touch" from the ads and added the words "Voice & data services are available outside 3G coverage areas."

In a response to the initial suit, Verizon stated, "AT&T did not file this lawsuit because Verizon's 'There's A Map For That' advertisements are untrue; AT&T sued because Verizon's ads are true and the truth hurts."

AT&T announced Tuesday that it has plans to upgrade its 3G nationwide network by 2011, a total of 1,900 cell sites are slated to be added by the end of 2009.