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UK telcos challenge 'next generation networks' trademark

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Scottish telco Thus is calling on the UK telecoms industry to challenge a recent trademark registration of the term "next generation networks".

The term is jargon commonly used by telcos to describe their next generation telecoms networks, such as BT's 21CN, which use digital technology to connect phone calls and other network traffic more efficiently than traditional telecoms networks.

But it's emerged that US outfit Wireless Facilities Inc (WFI) has taken out a trademark on the term in Europe. If left unchallenged, it could mean that operators will be prevented from using the term "next generation networks" or face legal action.

In a statement, Thus said: "Thus, as the first operator in the UK to have its Next Generation Network in place, is naturally concerned about the application for trademark registration of the term 'Next Generation Networks' in Europe.

"This is not only a description of our network, but also a generic term used by the industry and it is quite extraordinary that this trademark application has progressed to this point.

"We will be opposing this application and we are calling on the industry and Ofcom to support us in this manner," it said.

Indeed, Ofcom is already understood to be looking into the matter. Earlier this year the regulator set a new industry body - Next Generation Networks UK (NGN UK) - to oversee the technical and commercial arrangements for NGN development in the UK.

A source at NGN UK told us that lawyers would be consulted this week to ensure the new industry group - backed by BT, Cable & Wireless (C&W), NTL, Thus and Vodafone, among others - did not have to change its name.

For its part, WFI is unaware of the fuss caused in the UK over its trademark. "WFI applied for trademark protection in the European Union in 2005 for the service mark 'Next Generation Networks'. That application has been proceeding in the ordinary course. This is the first that WFI has heard of any opposition to its trademark application in Europe." ®

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