On November 3, 2009, AT&T filed suit against Verizon seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction, and damages over “disseminating misleading coverage maps in television and print advertisements” about AT&T’s voice and data network. (AT&T Mobility LLC v. Cellco Partnership, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.) The cause of action is based on alleged misleading comparative advertising by Verizon in violation of the Lanham Act § 43(a), 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and related Georgia laws.
In October 2009, Verizon began a new advertising campaign promoting its “3G” network coverage area using radio, print, and television advertisements. In one television advertisement and at least one radio advertisement, Verizon claimed that “AT&T customers were ‘out of touch’ where AT&T ‘3G’ coverage is not available.” In television and print advertisements, Verizon showed a “3G” coverage map attributed to AT&T with large white areas showing no cell phone coverage.
On October 7, 2009 AT&T contacted Verizon requesting that the advertisements be withdrawn or modified to be accurate. In response, Verizon removed the words “out of touch” and superimposed the phrase “Voice & data services available outside 3G coverage areas” at the end of the television advertisements.
AT&T claims that Verizon misleads consumers by implying that AT&T customers who are not in the “3G” coverage areas have no coverage at all. AT&T explains that AT&T also covers the United States with a “2.5G” wireless network coverage area that exceeds the “3G” network. Although slower than the “3G” network, the “2.5G” network still provides customers with the ability to browse the internet, send electronic emails, and send text messages.