American Telephone & Telegraph Co., which is about to lose its children, should also be forced to give up the name "Ma Bell," two of its major competitors said yesterday.
International Telephone & Telegraph Corp. and GTE Corp., asked a federal judge to bar AT&T from keeping the Bell name and logo after its local telephone operating subsidiaries are taken away and reestablished as independent companies next year, under the court-ordered divestiture.
To permit both AT&T and the companies to use the Bell name would mislead consumers into believing a connection still exists, hampering AT&T's competitors, ITT and GTE said.
The request, contained in separate filings by two of the leading AT&T competitors, would force AT&T to abandon the name of its new unregulated and highly publicized subsidiary, American Bell Inc.
An AT&T spokesman here said the company did not plan to use the name of its founder, Alexander Graham Bell, "generically in any of our products," but said the company would identify items as "geniune Bell products and services in advertising."
"We've got a 100-year heritage associated with that term, and we will not desert it for the convenience of competitors," the spokesman said.
ITT also asked U.S. District Judge Harold Greene to prohibit a new AT&T central staff organization from any involvement in the procurement decisions of the independent telephone operating companies.
Greene, who heard the Justice Department antitrust case against AT&T until the company and the government signed a consent agreement 13 months ago, is overseeing implementation of the divestiture plan. Under the agreement, AT&T will spin off its 22 local operating companies into seven regional telephone firms. AT&T will retain control of its manufacturing, research and long distance units.
The ITT and GTE comments were part of a stream of industry comments that were filed this week with Greene in response to AT&T's plan for divestiture, which was submitted in December and which Greene has until next month to evaluate.
What concerns the two telecommunications equipment manufacturers and others, such as the Tandy Corp., who have raised the "Bell" issue, is the use of the Bell name by the remaining AT&T. In its filing with the court, ITT noted that the public's contact with the Bell System is historically only with the local Bell operating companies.
"The public would obviously believe that the operating companies , which would be identified by the familiar Bell logo, are still affiliated with American Bell and 'genuine Bell products' that AT&T would be promoting," ITT said. "Elimination of this and similar subsidies was a fundamental purpose of the decree."
ITT and other AT&T competitors have said they think only the operating companies should have exclusive rights to the Bell name in marketing and promoting products. The name could also be used on equipment bought by the firms from other vendors.
GTE raised eight specific problems with the divestiture plan, warning that unless they are addressed, the operating companies and AT&T "will be in a position to continue to dominate many critical sectors of the telecommunications marketplace."