The battle between Sky News and the ABC’s fledgling around-the-clock news network was always going to get a little nasty. And now word has filtered out about the lengths Sky is prepared to go to in protecting its turf.

Ahead of next week’s launch of ABC News 24, Sky News — the joint-venture between News Limited and the Seven and Nine networks — has dispatched a letter to the ABC demanding it not use the phrase ‘News 24’.

After TV Tonight posted a rumour this morning, the ABC confirmed to Crikey that Sky has “raised concerns with us”. It will comply with the request.

“The name of the new channel is ABC News 24 and that is what we have been using and will use as the appropriate title,” a spokesperson said.

But does Sky really have ownership of the ‘News 24’ tag? Google finds well over a million references, including networks in South Africa, India, France, the United States and Canada, boxing and motoring news websites, the BBC and the ABC in Australia. Even limiting search results to Australia finds numerous mentions of the ABC but no reference to Sky.

Sky may have a case. A media lawyer tells Crikey “it’s all a question of degree” — if the public could reasonably assume a particular word, phrase, logo or brand belongs to a particular company there may be a breach of intellectual property.

There’s plenty of examples. Crikey had its own run-in with SBS over the use of the phrase ‘the world game’. SBS claimed ownership and said Crikey was using it for commercial gain — we backed down because it wasn’t worth the legal fight.

And that’s what the ABC appears to have done here. Presenters will be schooled to use the full and correct name — no mention of the detached ‘News 24’ moniker.

CEO Angelos Frangopoulos — who has been highly critical of the public broadcaster pushing into the 24-hour news space — says Sky “has been been using it for many years”. “It is odd that the ABC wants to use the brand ‘News 24’ in Australia,” he told Crikey.

“That said my core complaint is that without the ‘ABC’ in front of the words ‘News 24′ it has the real potential to confuse their new service with our established service, a fact that has been recognised in correspondence from the ABC itself.”

Frangopoulos’ war with the ABC has been fought on a number of fronts, fuelled by Sky’s desire to steal the ABC’s federal government contract to run the Asia-Pacific television network. The government has called for submissions but has delayed awarding a new contract until after the election.

ABC News 24 will launch next Thursday night, with a news special simulcast on ABC1 at 7.30pm.