This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Court to AOL: You've Got Squat
Aug 17 1999 12:00 AM PDT

What a concept: a quick ruling on a tech lawsuit.

In December, AOL (dossier) filed suit against ATT (T) claiming exclusive right to the phrases "you have mail," "IM" (for "instant message") and "buddy list." On Friday, the court ruled for AT&T.

OK, it's a tempest in a chat window. But the press covered it anyway because it casts a light - however feeble - on the ongoing Microsoft (MSFT)-AOL instant-messaging food fight. Wired News made do with Reuters just-the-facts copy, which quoted from AOL and AT&T press releases. Yawn. (When's Declan McCullagh back from vacation?) The Washington Post ran an AP story, which at least touched on the connection between the phrase "you have mail" and AOL's distinctive (and trademarked) "You've Got Mail!" soundbite. CBS MarketWatch posted a brief Frank Barnako piece that conflates the suit with the Warner Bros. movie "You've Got Mail," to which it is unrelated.

MSNBC's Brock Meeks filed the meatiest coverage on this one, actually talking to someone (albeit someone at Jupiter Communications) besides the lawyers. Meeks quoted Jupiter analyst David Card characterizing the suit as "another sort of petty battle in a pretty important war." Meeks' piece was the only one to untangle the legal relationship that AOL claimed between "you have mail" and "You've Got Mail!", which the court dismissed. And Meeks noted that AT&T has been using the phrase "you have mail" since the earliest days of Unix.

Bad News for AOL Messaging
The Industry Standard

AOL: You Haven't Got a Trademark

Court Throws Out AOL Case vs. ATT
Washington Post

Court to AOL: You've Got No Claim
CBS Marketwatch

Court: AOL Must Share 'You Have Mail'