AT&T Sues Verizon Over 'Map For That' 3G Ads


Verizon's, "There's a map for that" ad campaign skewers both AT&T and Apple, whose iPhone AT&T carries exclusively in the United States. The "map for that" phrase is a riff on Apple's famous, "There's an app for that" ads for iPhone, but Verizon's version shows various maps indicating national 3G coverage and suggesting Verizon's national wireless coverage is much wider that AT&T's.

AT&T has been heavily criticized for its supposedly spotty 3G coverage in the past, but apparently Verizon's campaign has touched a nerve.

In its lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Atlanta, AT&T alleges that Verizon Wireless' commercials make false claims about the scope of its 3G coverage based on those maps. AT&T also claims that the blank spaces seen on those maps in the commercials is enough to confuse viewers into thinking AT&T has no coverage in some of those areas at all, let alone 3G coverage.

"Verizon has stepped over the line of legitimate comparative advertising," AT&T states in the filing.

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AT&T adds in the complaint that it had previously asked Verizon to change the ads already, and Verizon did make some changes -- apparently not to the extent AT&T requested, however. In the lawsuit, AT&T is asking for a temporary restraining order against Verizon Wireless so the ads will stop running while AT&T waits for hearings and a chance at a permanent injunction against Verizon.

AT&T further described the ads as costing AT&T "incalculable market share."

The "map" ads began appearing in prime-time television spots in mid-October, around the same time that another pointed Verizon campaign -- for Verizon's forthcoming Droid smartphone with Motorola -- took aim at Apple with a series of TV and print "iDon't" ads.

The lawsuit isn't the first AT&T-Verizon advertising dust up this year. Four months ago, Verizon Wireless sued AT&T to uphold Verizon's "America's Most Reliable 3G Network" ads, responding to a July 1 claim AT&T filed with the National Advertising Division of the Council for Better Business Bureaus that requested to have Verizon's ads labeled false. (AT&T's claim was rejected.)

As the fall smartphone season hits up with a number of new competitors for iPhone and its most popular rivals, the big question for AT&T is how much longer it will maintain the exclusive iPhone carrier contract it's had since the iPhone's 2007 debut.

While it once seemed that Verizon was the logical choice for iPhone carrier expansion, Verizon has put a lot of marketing muscle behind Motorola's new iPhone rival Droid, and its attacks against AT&T and Apple seem to suggest a Verizon iPhone is off the table -- for now.