The developments in La Porte caused alarm within the Bell company. Bell threatened to take legal action against Strowger’s company, claiming that all telephone systems were under its control. Each time an installation based on the Strowger system opened in a new location, the Bell company protested the opening and threatened lawsuits against the operating company and all subscribers. This slowed down the sales of Strowger’s equipment, but ultimately the Bell company’s efforts failed, and the new automatic telephone equipment spread in use.
As the Strowger equipment became more sophisticated, it became more accepted and more widely used. In 1898 Keith began promoting the system in Europe. The company built its first overseas exchange in Amsterdam in 1898, and its second was in Berlin in 1899. In 1901 the Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange formed another company, the Automatic Electric Company, to handle production and marketing of the equipment, while the original Strowger company served only as holder of the patents.