AT&T Suing To Stop Prepaid Phone Unlocking, Resale

from the this-is-a-trademark-violation? dept

It’s quite interesting to see the way companies misuse intellectual property law in order to try to prop up what is otherwise a weak business model. We’ve covered the case of Tracfone, a prepaid mobile phone company, who sells cheap phones hoping to make it up on the service fees. However, when an exception was added to the DMCA allowing phone unlocking, Tracfone flipped out. The company even went so far as to claim that unlocking mobile phones could represent a national security issue. Tracfone, though, is a rather small player in the space. It turns out that AT&T is joining in on the fun and suing to stop prepaid phone unlocking. The company is not going after individual unlockers, but the bulk unlockers. What’s interesting, though, is that the lawsuit appears to be over the issue of trademark violation. Why this isn’t just a contractual issue isn’t clear — but it seems strange to make it a trademark issue. However, again, all this really shows is that the business model around prepaid phones, relying on subsidized phones, isn’t a particularly good one. That’s no reason to sue or pass laws that protect it, though.

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Companies: at&t, tracfone

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Comments on “AT&T Suing To Stop Prepaid Phone Unlocking, Resale”

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Anonymous Coward says:


The linked article even goes so far as to say that unlocking prepaid phones “amounts to a theft of subsidies” and that the telcos are “working with federal law enforcement officials on the problem”. Notice how these companies like to call anything that challenges their business plans “theft”? Sounds like the old “illegal interference with business model” claim to me.

Gimme a break.

Doug Stewart says:

Resale of Phones

This is a battle that AT&T is destined to lose (and good on that I say).

The Office of Trademarks and Copyrights have already moved that this is a “non-event”.

Remember the Tracphone? These jokers tried playing the same game and lost.

If AT&T would spend half as much energy trying to meet their customer’s needs as trying to screw them. They’d make more money.

lou says:

tracfone sying on customers

tarcfone–whose carrier is at&t is allowing its cutomer’s calls to be spied on by the govenment agencies…if your outgoing calls on tracfone say—as mine does at all times—“CALL DIVERT SET”—you are a victime of the global, war-mongering overlords. i m an american citizen with no criminal records (after near 60 years of life in the “land of the free”) and i–nor my friends and family are any part of the “global terrorist network”…the criminal u.s. gov’t. is a big brother andwe are on animal farm…god help us….

Roy says:

TracFone or AT&T?

Look at my video showing a side by side comparison of my iPhone and my TracFone… Go figure.

My AT&T service (Cingular when I started it in March 2002) was so bad and unreliable, I had to purchase a TracFone as a backup. My mom was in Hospice, and I needed to be in touch 27-7… The TracFone was flawless and got “bars” everywhere.

My TracFone/AT&T “shootout can be seen by typing in my “name” ROYINTEXAS on YouTube.

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