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TV Networks Fight Over History Repeating in U.K. Trademark Trial

A&E Television Networks LLC, which airs the History channel, said viewers were fooled into watching a similarly-named rival channel run by a Discovery Communications Inc. unit.

A&E claims Discovery infringed its History channel trademark when it renamed one of its channels “Discovery History” in 2010 and is seeking a London court order blocking the Silver Spring, Maryland-based company’s use of “History.”

“People are watching their channels thinking they are watching ours,” A&E’s lawyer, James Mellor, said at the start of a five-day trial. That’s “going to have some impact on viewing figures and will have some impact on revenues.”

History, formerly known as The History Channel, is the second most-watched of the fact-based pay-TV stations in the U.K., according to A&E court documents. Both Discovery History and History are known for “documentaries about tanks trundling across the Russian steppe,” said Judge Peter Smith, who said he watched them regularly.

A&E will present viewers as witnesses during the trial who told the New York-based broadcaster they’d been deceived by the Discovery History name, to show “what real people think,” Mellor said.

The channels’ names are similar “as a matter of simple English,” Discovery said in court papers. A&E wants “a monopoly in the word history.”

A&E is trying to stop other broadcasters from using the word only “in a particular context,” Mellor said in response to a question by Smith. Discovery’s use is deceptive, he said.

Discovery, which also broadcasts the Animal Planet and TLC channels, has 1.7 billion subscribers in 209 countries, according to its website.

Jeremy Dickerson, Discovery’s lawyer, and Debra Johnson, an A&E spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails requesting comment.

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