The first court date has been set in Visa's legal dispute with Advanta Corp. and American Express Co.

The U.S. District Court Northern District of California will hear arguments April 10 to determine whether Advanta has the right to market the Rewards Accelerator card despite Visa and MasterCard rules that prohibit it.

Advanta, although it sued Visa and MasterCard last fall after they demanded it cease offering the card, has temporarily stopped marketing it. The product rewards cardholders by giving them American Express Membership Rewards credits.

San Francisco-based Visa is suing American Express and Advanta, accusing the companies of infringing on the Visa trademark by offering the product- which combines an American Express rewards program with a Visa card.

"The potential association between Visa and American Express created by the new card threatens to undo years of intense competitive marketing activity by Visa directed against Amex," said Visa's lawsuit.

MasterCard International also filed a similar but separate lawsuit against Advanta and American Express.

In its lawsuit Advanta accused the card associations of "monopolizing the general credit card market," and denying "Advanta the ability to compete fully."

Advanta, MasterCard, and American Express wanted the case to proceed in Philadelphia, closer to their headquarters.

Legal observers say the case likely is being heard in San Francisco because Visa, which is based there, filed the initial lawsuit. Visa sued American Express in November, and then amended its lawsuit in December to include Advanta when the Spring House, Pa., company refused to discontinue the Rewards Accelerator as Visa requested.

Advanta still may not solicit new Rewards Accelerator cardholders. But through an agreement it struck in December with MasterCard and Visa, Advanta can continue to service existing Rewards Accelerator accounts until April 10.

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