Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
prepaid, trademark, unlocking

at&t, tracfone

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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  1. identicon
    Roy, 14 Oct 2008 @ 7:01pm

    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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