Judge blocks DirecTV's Time Warner ads

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NEW YORK -- A judge Monday blocked DirecTV Group Inc. from airing advertisements in which Jessica Simpson and William Shatner say its high-definition television service provides better pictures than Time Warner Cable Inc.'s high-definition service.

DirecTV will still be allowed to use comparative advertising stating that its overall picture quality is superior to Time Warner Cable, the judge said.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain said Time Warner Cable was entitled to a preliminary ruling blocking the ads from being shown while a lawsuit proceeds through the Manhattan federal court.

Marc Laurence Greenwald, a lawyer for DirecTV, said he had not yet seen the ruling and could not immediately comment.

Swain rejected Time Warner's request that DirecTV be required to show corrective advertising, saying such extraordinary relief was not warranted in this case.

But the judge said Time Warner had shown it was likely to succeed on its claim that the commercials and Internet ads were false when they say DirecTV's high definition programming is superior to that of Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner Cable Inc. filed its lawsuit in December, accusing DirecTV of deceptive trade practices.

The lawsuit claimed DirecTV lied about the accessibility of NFL broadcasts in an attempt to pry away customers from Time Warner Cable.

The suit sought unspecified damages and a court order to stop DirecTV from saying in advertising that Time Warner Cable subscribers cannot watch their local NFL team play games when DirecTV is showing games on the NFL Network.

Among other claims, Time Warner Cable accused DirecTV of using advertising featuring Simpson and Shatner to say its high-definition television service provides a picture quality that is superior to Time Warner Cable's high-definition service.

Time Warner Cable said those ads were also false because both companies provide exactly the same screen resolution. At best, the lawsuit said, DirecTV's picture quality is "merely equivalent."
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