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A&E Can’t Stop Repeat of History in U.K. Dispute With Discovery

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- A&E Television Networks LLC, which airs the History channel, lost a U.K. court bid to prevent a Discovery Communications Inc. unit from using the word in the name of its rival documentary television station.

Judge Peter Smith said evidence from viewers didn’t show they were likely to mistake Discovery History for A&E’s History, which used to be known as the History Channel.

“I do not see that any clear picture emerged from these witnesses to show there was any possible confusion,” he said in a written decision.

Discovery, which owns TLC and has a joint partnership with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network, is adding channels and programming in new markets to counter slowing growth in the U.S. Its international business, which accounts for a little more than a third of annual sales, is growing faster than its U.S. business, Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav said in December.

A&E argued at a July trial that it lost viewers and advertising revenue because Discovery had tricked people into watching its channel. Discovery filed a counterclaim to strike out the trademark, saying that New York-based A&E wanted a monopoly on the word history. The counterclaim was also rejected by Judge Smith.

Michael Feeney, a spokesman for A&E in New York, declined to comment. Jeremy Dickerson, Discovery’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment on the ruling.

Judge Smith, who said during the trial he enjoyed watching historical television stations featuring “documentaries about tanks trundling across the Russian steppe,” criticized evidence presented by A&E.

The company’s lawyers interviewed viewers without telling them until afterwards the information would be used in a trial.

“It seems blatantly unfair to the witness,” Smith said in his judgment. “It is clear that statements were ‘finessed’ to present them in a more favorable light,” without witnesses understanding what was happening, he said.

Discovery, which also broadcasts the Animal Planet and TLC channels, has 1.8 billion subscribers in 209 countries, according to its website. A&E also produces the Hoarders and Storage Wars television shows.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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