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Verizon Wireless sues Nextel

The company claims Nextel Communications "improperly obtained" prototypes of some new Verizon cell phones with walkie-talkie features.

Nextel Communications "improperly obtained" prototypes of Verizon Wireless cell phones with a walkie-talkie feature, Verizon alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday.

The charges surface about a week before Verizon Wireless is set to introduce cell phones that connect instantly. Nextel has so far been the sole U.S. carrier to offer such a "push to talk" service.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia, claims Nextel obtained prototypes of Verizon cell phones to "obtain valuable, confidential, and proprietary business information," then share any negative news with industry analysts, according to an account of the suit in The Wall Street Journal.

"We filed the complaint because we believe that Nextel improperly obtained technology from Verizon Wireless," said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jim Gerace.

Nextel is "confident it has conducted itself properly," the carrier said in a statement released late Friday. "We are, therefore, baffled by the claims made by Verizon Wireless in its filing."

One benefit of the push-to-talk feature is a shorter-than-normal cell phone call, which cuts down on dialing costs. Many U.S. carriers are hoping for the same success as Nextel, which has made billions of dollars selling its DirectConnect service to construction companies, trucking firms and others who once used walkie-talkie-like devices to instantly connect to others.

The Verizon Wireless suit names only Nextel as a defendant. both plan to introduce push-to-talk services.