Computer firm wants phone number back

October 07, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

What's in a phone number?

To the folks at Basically Computers Inc. in Westminster, the phone number of a competitor listed under their name in the local telephone directory doesn't smell -- or ring -- as sweetly as their own.

That's why the 10-year-old computer equipment company is suing Municipal Services Group Inc. of Hampstead to give back the Basically Computers phone number.

"A caller who relied on the directory and dialed [the phone number] for the purpose of communicating with BCI would reach MSG," the complaint said. "The natural and probable result of the erroneous listing is to deprive BCI of . . . the benefits of answering some of its own telephone calls."

Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. will hear testimony in the case Oct. 16.

The lawsuit, seeking the transfer of the phone number to Basically Computers and an unspecified amount of damages, was filed last month in Carroll Circuit Court.

The owner of Basically Computers and the owner of Municipal Services Group are former business partners who mutually parted ways in February, the suit says.

Basically Computers sold computers and computer programs to businesses, individuals and local governments. Paul A. Cross, the owner of Municipal Services Group, was responsible for developing much of the governmental clientele, the suit says.

A 1990 agreement called for Mr. Cross to sell his shares in Basically Computers and continue to represent the company in the local government market. He was allowed to keep his governmental clients.

Since March, Mr. Cross has been selling computer equipment and programs to local governments under the Municipal Services Group name. That company was incorporated in May, the suit says.

Along with his new company, Mr. Cross obtained a phone number.

It is that phone number, and where it appears in the current Westminster phone directory, that is at issue in the suit.

On Page 20 of the business listings section, Municipal Services Group's phone number is listed under that company's name. But on Page 3 of the directory, MSG's phone number is listed under one of three Basically Computer entries.

The suit says Basically Computers "has a right to the exclusive use of its own name" and that the incorrect phone listing "will have the natural and probable tendency to deceive and confuse the public."

The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. has agreed to switch Municipal Services Group's phone number to Basically Computers, the suit says. Mr. Cross so far has refused to allow the phone company to transfer the number to his former business partner.

What Judge Beck will consider Oct. 16 is a request from Basically Computers to order Mr. Cross to turn over the phone number. Any monetary damages would be considered at a later hearing.

Mr. Cross and David E. Kartalia, the Westminster attorney representing Basically Computers, could not be reached for comment.

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