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The Battle Over You Have Mail

Techstination feature for Tuesday, January 5, 1999

The movie's a big hit. (sound) But does America Online really own those three little words? I'm Fred Fishkin with Bootcamp, a report on computers and technology. It all started last month when AT&T Worldnet introduced new services that include instant messages, buddy lists and the phrase, you have mail. AOL has gone to court to try to put a stop to it. AOL's Tricia Primrose...

"These are trademarks that America Online has and has been using for many years. In fact, you have mail and you've got mail have been trademarks on the AOL service since 1989."

So far, a federal judge has refused to issue a restraining order against AT&T's use of the phrases. Worldnet spokesman Jonathan Varman...

"Well really if AOL were allowed to claim such common terms as you have mail, buddy lists and instant messaging as their own, it would create new toll booths at unexpected points on the Internet."

AOL licensed its trademarks to Warner Brothers for the movie, which it says, only underscores their value.......(sound) Not likely. It appears the next message from federal court will've got a trial.