Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
prepaid, trademark, unlocking

Companies:
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
    Doug Stewart, 8 Feb 2008 @ 3:15pm

    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.

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