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‘Biography’ opens war of words

A&E, Alliance want rights to name

TORONTO — Alliance Communications and A&E Television Networks are fighting over the use of the word “biography.”

A&E’s most popular show is called “Biography.” The Biography Channel is the name that Alliance Communications wants to use for a new specialty channel.

A&E took exception to the use of the word “biography” as soon as it learned about Alliance’s intentions, and in January filed a suit in the Federal Court of Canada seeking an injunction to prevent Alliance from using it.

A&E spokespeople say they’re hoping the two companies can settle the matter out of court.

“We’re very respectful of Alliance,” said A&E’s VP of legal and business affairs Charles Wright. “But trademark law is kind of specialized in that you can lose your rights very quickly if you don’t act to protect your mark.”

A&E has trademarked “Biography” in the U.S. and has had an application to do the same in Canada in the works since 1994.

Alliance has filed a countersuit opposing A&E’s application, stating that the word “biography” is too commonplace for anyone to own exclusive rights to it.

Alliance has, however, applied for its own trademark — for the term “the Biography Channel,” which Phyllis Yaffe, president of Alliance Broadcasting says is a more specific use of the term and is not to be confused with the A&E program.

The issue is, however, one that has a history. In 1997, A&E, which owns the History Channel, balked at another channel name Alliance was proposing, the History & Entertainment Network, which A&E was concerned would be shortened to H&E.

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