LETTER: A pebble or two from Goliath

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The Independent Online
NO ONE can deny the appeal of a simple David and Goliath yarn, but can I cast a pebble or two on behalf of Pearson plc at your lead diary item in Bunhill last week ("Little comment as small company battles for its identity")?

The gist of the item was that Pearson is setting up "Europe on Line" as the UK agent of "America on Line", in order "to connect its UK customers to the Internet", and that we have callously disregarded the worries of a London entrepreneur with a small business also called Europe on Line.

In fact Europe Online (sic) is a Luxembourg-based company in which Pearson has a 15 per cent stake. It is in the process of launching a pan-European on-line computer network that is intended to compete robustly with America Online, one of the leading US-based network companies. As such, it will provide a range of on-line services and will only provide a connection to the Internet as an incidental feature. Within the UK, Europe Online's franchise will be handled by a consortium in which Pearson is planning to take a minority stake.

Bunhill's account of our dealings with the London businessman was similarly inaccurate. We met with Giancarlo Calderini to talk about the clash of names. You quote him as saying that we did not care. On the contrary, we took pains to explain why it would be difficult for any UK business to have exclusive hold on the Europe Online name (whatever the spelling) - given its descriptive nature and geographical scope - and offered to explore ways of resolving the matter.

Your diarist laments that Pearson could not explain why Mr Calderini had such a different view of things. We didn't want to comment, because our meeting with Mr Calderini had been confidential by mutual agreement.

After tripping over so many factual errors in so few lines, it was almost a relief to find your diarist reporting that our lawyer was away for a week's skiing holiday. This, at least, was true.

Duncan Campbell-Smith

Pearson plc

London SW1