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Dell Accuses Psion of "Fraud" Over Netbook

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the it's-mine-now dept.

Portables 167

Barence writes "Dell has issued court papers in the US, accusing Psion of fraudulently laying claim to the term netbook. Psion sent out warning letters late last year to PC manufacturers, retailers and bloggers alike, asking them to stop using the term netbook, which the company registered as a trademark in the late 1990s. But in a Petition for Cancellation of Psion's trademark, the PC manufacturer accuses Psion of abandoning the term and fraudulently claiming it was still in use. 'Psion is not currently offering laptop computers under the Netbook trademark,' Dell's petition claims. The petition also claims that Psion made false statements about its use of the term Netbook in a sworn declaration to the US Trademark Office."

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167 comments

Hooray for trademark law! (4, Informative)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26924957)

A trademark registration is generally regarded as prima facie evidence of a legitimate interest. However, if the mark is not used in substantial interstate commerce after a period of time, the mark can be invalidated with a successful court challenge.

However, if they were using the mark, or intending to use the mark in a good faith effort, Dell can lose and open themselves to paying Psion's legal fees as well as a counter suit, cessation of use in commerce, and a healthy share of any profits used under that term. (i.e. i can defend a trademark on a device i'm designing even if i haven't sold a single unit).

One final thing, IANAL, but I talk to them when I'm feeling masochistic.

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925099)

Yeah, this should work out well. Just about as well as NCR's right to use 'Tower' ... sigh

These marketing people might as well start trying to trademark things like 'desk' 'pen' or 'screen'.

Now, if it were about the trademark "Dell NetBook" or "Dellnetbook" or something similar that would be a different matter. Netbook is just too generic and descriptive to even be given a trademark. period. Why do we keep doing this?

We all call them Kleenex, but they are facial tissues. If someone had tried to trademark 'facial tissue' we would be in the same ballpark here.

It is sad that people argue over such things, even more sad that they have the money to waste arguing over it.

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (2, Interesting)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925243)

Netbook is a sufficiently unique way to describe a "IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: LAPTOP COMPUTERS" Source, if the link evaporates, search TESS for Netbook, its serial number 75215401 [uspto.gov]

Well, its as unique as iPhone or powerbook. And back then, in 1996, (November 6, 1996 to be exact), I remember notebook computers browsing the net, but not a notebook designed for internet connectivity as its primary purpose.

TARR links persist (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925745)

Source, if the link evaporates, search TESS for Netbook, its serial number 75215401

PROTIP: TESS links expire, but each TESS result has a persistent link under the "TARR Status" button. See TARR: Serial #75215401 [uspto.gov]

What are you talking about? (5, Informative)

adam (1231) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925317)

I get the distinct impression you are speaking for a complete lay perspective rather than from ANY experience with trademark law.

FYI, it's generally accepted there are five different categories of trademark, each more defensible than the next. The least most defensible mark is a "descriptive" mark. Like "facial tissue." Had the Kleenex brand chosen "Facial Tissue[tm]" for their mark, they may well have lost control of the mark because generic terms cannot function as trademarks.

We all call them Kleenex, but they are facial tissues. If someone had tried to trademark 'facial tissue' we would be in the same ballpark here.

The most defensible mark is a fanciful one, that is a word which does not otherwise exist (Kodak, Xerox, Pepsi, etc). Afaik, Kleenex actually is the best possible name one could choose to associate with tissues, since it is entirely fanciful (and Kleenex company has done a good job associating their name with tissues). As an aside, it is possible for a diluted mark to lose its protected status (such as with Bayer's "Aspirin" analgesic).

These marketing people might as well start trying to trademark things like 'desk' 'pen' or 'screen'.

Netbook would probably fall under the "Suggestive" trademark category (the third most defensible category, behind Arbitrary and Fanciful). Net and Book both exist as words, but were previously not widely applied to this sort of device.

So, in conclusion, "Netbook" is nothing like "pen" or "desk," as far as trademarks go. Neither of these examples would even be registerable, unless they were referring to something they weren't (you could make a ketchup product called "DESK" or a cell phone called "PEN").

Re:What are you talking about? (1, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925361)

Net and Book both exist as words, but were previously not widely applied to this sort of device.

How does the similarity of 'netbook' to the generic 'notebook' enter into this?

Re:What are you talking about? (2, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925643)

How does the similarity of 'netbook' to the generic 'notebook' enter into this?

Wouldn't it fall in the same category as 'iBook', 'PowerBook', or 'MacBook'. Back when first registered it would have been a unique moniker while still associated with the notebook style form factor.

Re:What are you talking about? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925447)

As an aside, it is possible for a diluted mark to lose its protected status (such as with Bayer's "Aspirin" analgesic).

Bayer lost Aspirin because the Germans lost WWII.

Not because they allowed dilution.

Re:What are you talking about? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925577)

You know who else lost WWII?

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

warrigal (780670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925685)

Japan, Italy and several other minor powers who threw their lot in with the Axis Powers. Why?

Re:What are you talking about? (1, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925807)

I did. I'm sure I left it around here somewhere...

Re:What are you talking about? (2, Informative)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925733)

I thought Bayer lost its trademark to Aspirin as part of World War I reparations.

Re:What are you talking about? (4, Informative)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925783)

As an aside, it is possible for a diluted mark to lose its protected status (such as with Bayer's "Aspirin" analgesic).

That's a bad example. The US trademark on aspirin was given up as part of Treaty of Versailles [wikipedia.org] at the end of World War I. It was never diluted in the US and remains a trademark in other parts of the world.

Re:What are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926257)

FYI, it's generally accepted there are five different categories of trademark, each more defensible than the next. The least most defensible mark is a "descriptive" mark. Like "facial tissue." Had the Kleenex brand chosen "Facial Tissue[tm]" for their mark, they may well have lost control of the mark because generic terms cannot function as trademarks.

Something generic like say "windows"?

Re:What are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926517)

Which is why the trademark is for "Microsoft Windows".

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (2, Insightful)

adamchou (993073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925493)

What about RollerBlade? AquaLung? I'm sure there are many more if you search hard enough. Those are two generic words combined to be unique and trademarked name. Netbook was a valid trademark name too. Whether it is today is a whole different story.

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925667)

WTF does Jethro Tull have to do with this?

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (3, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925497)

But netbook was indeed a unique enough term (given the usual trademarks - just add capitalization like NetBook etc).

Now you know why trademark owners have to go about suing or threatening to sue people who use their trademarks. If they don't, a few years later it becomes a generic term and people can claim you abandoned it.

To me this is a borderline case. So good luck to the Judge and court :).

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925527)

Actually, you may be right. Netbook may be generic by now for a sub-notebook, in which case nobody gets trademark rights in it.

I haven't read the article, but if this is just a cancellation, Dell isn't trying to trademark Netbook. They're trying to say that Psion can't use it as a trademark. It's entirely possible that "the mark is generic" is one of their contentions (and in the time it took me to write that, I could have checked, but whatever).

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (1)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925753)

Netbook is just too generic and descriptive to even be given a trademark.

It already is a trademark. Try another argument. This one has failed.

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926297)

And if it becomes a generic term, it may no longer be allowed to be a trademark.

I'd quote your second line back at you, but it's rude and kind of dumb, so I won't.

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925381)

I certainly found my prime feces interesting, I still remember my mothers reaction... good times...

I'm not really trolling, its just "prime feces" sums up how I feel about it... personally, I don't think anything that describes its form and/or function, should be allowed to be trademarked. Net + Book, Lap + Top, Desk + Top, MP3 + Player, etc... PsionTop, PCsion, crap like that...sure i'll go for that, trademark it, it's unique.

I hope they lose, just out of spite... /minirant

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925763)

I don't think anything that describes its form and/or function, should be allowed to be trademarked. Net + Book

So it's a printed text made out of nets? Or is it a device for capturing errant tomes? Next time you argue a point, you might want to first check that you're not contradicting yourself. You've demonstrated precisely why this trademark was valid at the time it was granted, and may still be valid now. I hope they win, just to spite the people who make ignorant comments like yours.

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926031)

And I hope they both win and lose just to spite people like me!

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925405)

Screw all this! Let's just call them all Kleenex!

I sort of mean that as a joke, but at the same time, the word "NetBook" has become so commonly used that it doesn't actually matter if PC makers stop using the term -- PEOPLE will continue using the term. Psion already lost unless of course they are actually interested in collecting money and not using the mark. This, of course, would be bad faith...

Re:Hooray for trademark law! (3, Informative)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925513)

However, if they were using the mark, or intending to use the mark in a good faith effort, Dell can lose and open themselves to paying Psion's legal fees as well as a counter suit, cessation of use in commerce, and a healthy share of any profits used under that term. (i.e. i can defend a trademark on a device i'm designing even if i haven't sold a single unit).

Not quite correct. You can apply for the mark if you have a bona fide intent to use, but it won't issue until you use it, and once the mark is registered, you must continue to use it in all of the goods and services listed. If you file a statement of use to renew your registration, and there is even one good or service in the list for which you are not actually using the mark, your statement of use is fraudulent, and the whole mark is subject to being canceled.

The "fraud" allegation is actually not that big a deal. It's very common to assert that in a cancellation because that's one of the ways you get the mark canceled. Also, remember that a cancellation is not a federal court proceeding. It's an administrative proceeding in the USPTO. They just cancel the mark. It's not a damages proceeding.

IAAL, but I'm not your lawyer and I don't represent you yadda yadda.

Hmmm... Who else uses that trademark...? (0)

billy901 (1158761) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925007)

I'm pretty sure that a few other companies use netbook as a trademark. Ex. Asus. Thus voiding the lawsuit basically. At least according to a lawyer I know.

Re:Hmmm... Who else uses that trademark...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925139)

Maybe you should post his name, so no one accidentally hires that incompetent jackoff. Psion has a registered trademark for netbook (in the goods and services, laptop computer category), filed December 18, 1996. Psion and no one else. "Coby netbook", "wind netbook" and "G netbook" are also registered (in 2008), but those don't affect Psion's trademark (and may not even be valid).

Re:Hmmm... Who else uses that trademark...? (1)

BenihanaX (1405543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925533)

Someone mod this above the grandparent, even as a non-lawyer the idea is ridiculous. I create a second company to make a product with the same name I want to use in my first company and suddenly the trademark is void?

Re:Hmmm... Who else uses that trademark...? (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926309)

No other company can use it as a trademark in a related field, so that lawyer is wrong. However, they may be using it as a generic term (which is, indeed, what they are doing), which may over time invalidate the original trademark.

Interesting (4, Interesting)

Rival (14861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925027)

This may be interesting to watch play out. On the one hand, Psion did actually use the trademark in the past, and the letters it sent could be considered a defense of trademark. On the other hand, if they intentionally falsified information, there ought to be repercussions.

Beside those legal grounds for making a decision, the question of "buzzword-squatting" will likely come into play here. I don't know if that label necessarily applies in this case, but to the extent that Dell uses the concept in its argument, it becomes relevant.

Suggested keyword: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925031)

zzzzzzzz

Netbux (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925035)

Maybe we will see people selling Notbooks just like they used to talk about *nix.

Or maybe I should trademark the terms N[ou]b[(ook)(uck)(ux)]s

Re:Netbux (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926321)

Or netbOOks.

Psion is still around???!??!?!? (2, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925049)

I used to sell the Psion Series 5 [wikipedia.org] back when I worked at CompUSA [wikipedia.org] . I really thought the company had gone belly-up.

Which leaves me to wonder, how many others saw the article and thought for sure that Psion was already no longer?

Re:Psion is still around???!??!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925095)

Yup, I though Psion pretty much died out a while ago too. This is probably some attempt to get back into business again...

Re:Psion is still around???!??!?!? (4, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926185)

Hmm I found this

http://www.mtpt.co.uk/2008/12/a-netbook-by-any-other-name-or-how-psion-is-going-discover-you-have-to-use-it-or-lose-it.html [mtpt.co.uk]

It was reported earlier this week that lawyers acting for Psion were writing out to those using the term "netbook" to describe mini-laptops optimised for web/internet use. They were politely - indeed curiously politely - inviting people to 'transition' to using another name.

Transition? Politely? Since when do commercial IP lawyers behave like that?

[Declaration of interest: I'm a commercial lawyer, and IP, especially trademark law, is a significant part of what I do.]

There's something going on here which could prove very interesting if Psion proceeds to do anything silly. Like actually trying to enforce the rights they're asserting.

Some basics (skip this if you're familiar with trademark law):

A trademark is sign (normally but not exclusively words or images) which indicate the origin of goods or services.

In general (and specifically in the EU) they acquire protection in one of two ways; by being used - acquiring reputation and goodwill, i.e. people knowing the trademark and there being sufficient economic activity associated with it - or by being registered with the state.

An unregistered trademark has to be used to come into existance. A registered trademark doesn't have to be used, but if it is ever unused for a continuous period of five years it can be revoked for non-use.

Generally, trademarks give the owner a exclusive right to use the trademark for specific goods, and a right to prevent people using similar marks for the same goods or the same mark for similar goods.

The goods and services for trademarks are classified into one of 45 classes. Class 9, for example, covers electronic equipment and includes computers.

Way back when, when laptops were expensive, slow, and heavy, Psion was knocking out a successful range of palmtops. In the late nineties they obtained trademark registrations for the word NETBOOK covering electronics and printed goods, and used the brand for a device called the Psion Netbook (more familiar in it's consumer version, the Psion 7).

Several years ago - as they generally moved to an enterprise focus - they stopped producing the Psion Netbook, and Psion's lawyers now admit that these days all they do in connection with that product is produce accessories for extant equipment.

Psion still has valid trademark registrations. In the EU, for example, Community Trademark 428050 for the mark NETBOOK, covering a variety of electronic equipment and printed materials, is still in full force, was last renewed by Psion in December 2006, and will stay in force until 2016.

Unless, that is, it gets cancelled.

Anyone can apply to cancel a registered trademark on grounds of non-use, but as they'll only succeed if they can demonstrate that the mark hasn't been used for specific goods for 5 years.

Tantalisingly, Psion's own website admits that the "end of life" was in November 2003.

Game over? Maybe. Whilst the same document states that the last maintenance coverage from Psion will not be until 31 December 2008, maintenance services are not goods in Class 9. Psion might be able to argue their maintenance services were branded as "Netbook", or involved the supply of parts under the mark NETBOOK but from my experience of IT service provision I'd be surprised if that was the case.

So the tm is on the borderline of being considered abandoned. Hence the lawsuit presumably.

Re:Psion is still around???!??!?!? (4, Funny)

hhedeshian (1343143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925171)

Hmmm... And I thought their cars looked pretty bad. I can't imagine what a milk-carton-on-its-side shaped netbook with customizable accessories would look like.

Re:Psion is still around???!??!?!? (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925191)

They sell PocketPC wireless barcode guns for retail IT setups. I've seen a few deployed at Petco recently.

Re:Psion is still around???!??!?!? (1)

aronzak (1203098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925259)

SCO 2.0

Re:Psion is still around???!??!?!? (1)

Gogogoch (663730) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925981)

Yes, I was a big Psion fan. Had a series 3a, then bought a Series 3c just as they got out of the PDA business. Bastards. The Psions were superior to the then popular Palm machines. Another Betamax story. Psion continued with their EPOC operating system, licensing it to, at least, Nokia. So for a while Psion had their stuff was probably in big use everywhere. Don't know what happened to them since then, but assumed they were getting rich from the mobile phone market. Still bastards for abandoning me with my 3c.

meh (2, Insightful)

indi0144 (1264518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925079)

meh, everyone and the dog use the term netbook referring to small laptops. once is in the public domain manufacturers can call it pre-laptop chiqui-laptop pico-laptop pixie-laptop and still when someone goes into the store he will be asking for netbooks.

Netbook, netbook, netbook (-1, Troll)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925081)

Companies like Dell will go out of there way to market themselves into irrelevance. These companies don't like being at the top, so they will do everything possible to bring themselves down. I don't know why. I suppose they are short selling their own shares.

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (0, Offtopic)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925177)

I know, it always happens. I say something honest and insightful, then somebody who has an agenda will mark my comment a Troll, and then I will make a comment about the biased and unfair moderation, which will in turn be down moderated. It's a treadmill. When will Moderators stop acting like corporations and start acting mature.

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925267)

I'm guessing that was moderated as "Troll" simply because there is no option to flag it as "Moronic"

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (1, Insightful)

Carbon016 (1129067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925269)

It's pretty easy to claim your own arguments are honest and insightful. Perhaps There Is No Cabal.

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925273)

Perhaps because your original comment was inflammatory nonsense and clearly deserves a downmodding? And perhaps because complaining about a downmodding serves no purpose and nobody else cares, and so it also deserves a downmodding?

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (0, Redundant)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925415)

As a mature moderator, I'd mod down both posts for your bitching about moderation.

Grow up.

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925631)

As a shining example of the typical dumbfuck mod, you are mature enough to hypocritically post meaningless redundant shit.

Which proves the point he had made: the mods are fucking stupid morons and they earned their points not through merit but through spineless sucking up to momma Taco's crew only to blow their points on anybody who bashes their masters or uses strong laugage(as a lifelong pussy, you always left the room and hid under your bed when the arguments became heated) such as the word "NIGGER." How many pats on the head and doggy bones do you get? 10? 15? Good job, Fido.

p.s. - You forgot to wipe off that globule of KDawson's cum nestled in your Freddy Mercury moustache.

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (1)

BenihanaX (1405543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925707)

hypocritically post... lifelong pussy... NIGGER

And yet you're posting as AC.

Re:Netbook, netbook, netbook (0, Offtopic)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925459)

Posters like unlametheweak will go out of their way to market themselves into irrelevance. These posters don't like being at the top, so they will do everything possible to get themselves modded down. I don't know why. I suppose they like commenting on their own posts.

There, fixed that for ya.

Hmmm. couldn't get my strikethrough html with to work. anyone know why?

petition, petation (0, Offtopic)

deathguppie (768263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925091)

Why is it that when I make a petition it takes thousands of signatures.. but when a lawyer makes a petition it just takes him??

Miniature timeline (5, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925115)

1989 - First known use of the word 'netbook' (registered trademark by Asymetrix corp)
1991 - Trademark abandoned by Asymetrix
1996 - Psion applies to the USPTO for the trademark for netbook
1999 - First reference I can find to a Psion netbook [geek.com]
2003 - Netbook Pro is released (doesn't seem to be for sale anymore, it was a 'clamshell PDA')
2008 - Claimed genericization of the term netbook by Asus and others.
December 2008 - Psion sends cease and desist letters to a bunch of companies
Now - Dell retaliates, files court papers claiming that Psion is not planning on producing a product called a netbook (which is probably true, it's not really their target market, but they seem to like expanding so who knows).

The fact that the term in and of itself is generic may not be enough, after all we have apple computer, and apples are pretty common. It does look like it could be an expensive fight, and I would be surprised if Psion decides to fight it out to the end. IANAL

genericization (3, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925251)

It's come quickly, but I think it's too late; the term "netbook" is now in common use as a generic term, which invalidates trademarks. Now excuse me, I gotta put the milk back in the fridge.

Re:genericization (3, Informative)

Xuranova (160813) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925549)

tell that to the owners of Kleenex, xerox, and Q-tip, and coke, and they'll laugh you all the way to the courtroom.

Re:genericization (3, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925859)

The difference is those guys vigoriously defended their trademark as soon as they saw it being misused.

Psion sent out C&D letters only after netbook became widely used. There's a case for Psion abandoning their trademark and for the term being generic.

Trademark isn't like patents. You can't troll a trademark. You need to nip trademark infringement in the bud, or if it becomes too widespread, you can be perceived to have abandoned it, and the term can become generic. In fact, you can protect your trademark from abandonment by acknowledging and allowing 3rd parties to use your trademark. But you'd still run the risk of it becoming generic.

Re:genericization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926075)

spam taste good

Re:genericization (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926213)

As opposed to tissue, photocopier, cotton bud?

Must be a US thing...

Where I come from the only one of your list to be genericized would be 'Coke' in deference to cola. And if there's Pepsi visible in the refrigerator or on the menu one would, naturally, order a Pepsi. (cola is some 'no name' bottle sold in the supermarkets for 1/2 the price of Coke or Pepsi)

Re:Miniature timeline (3, Insightful)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925301)

Wow. That timeline just makes this whole thing completely retarded. Asymetrix abandoned it in much less time than it took for Psion to hand out these letters. And when Psion wasn't even the first company to take this word, I wouldn't expect a reasonable person to see any sort of strength in these letters (IANAL, but I did do a law intro course in high school).

The term "netbook" hasn't been associated with Psion for as long as I can remember. I first heard the term "netbook" when it became an accepted generic term for halfway between a laptop and a thin client a few years back.

People seem surprised that Psion is still around, and I bet this lawsuit just runs them the rest of the way into the ground when they have to pay losing legal costs.

Re:Miniature timeline (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925403)

I agree, I would much prefer it if Netbook were a generic term, but on the other hand, they did actually have a product, and it was called 'Netbook.' The fact that you or I didn't hear the word until later isn't necessarily a legal defense, you have probably never heard of Gulbransen before, but if you started making piano accessories with that name, they would be annoyed.

A more famous example would be "Apple Computer" and "Apple Records," which I don't think anyone got confused, but Apple Records had their day in court anyway.

The point is, it would be unfair for a big company to try to steal a trademark from a small company by using it everywhere in advertising, then once all the people associate it with a certain object, to claim it has become generic. It may truly have become generic, but it wouldn't have if the larger company hadn't stolen the name........

And personally, I don't really care. I am just as happy to call it a small underpowered laptop or whatever the term becomes. That's probably an unpopular opinion, but there are really many more important things in the world, like the difference between a hacker and a cracker for example. I like the word hacker, and it got distorted by the public. These things happen, and you have to adjust.

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

HartDev (1155203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925353)

It is weird to me that words are now patened and whatnot.... I get it but I don't. It sounds like when I was a little kid and my siblings would say, "you can't talk like that cause I did first." and usually ends up with the oldest sibling saying, "you can't breath cause I was breathing before you." just ridiculous.

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925683)

It is weird to me that words are now patened and whatnot.... I get it but I don't.

It's not patented, it's trademarked. The point of trademark is so that it won't cause confusion in the marked place.

or do you think it would be OK for Microsoft to rename their OS to Linux and marked the hell out of it? You don't think that would cause confusion?

If you don't think trademark is a good idea, next time you're in a store, how would you know that the next Coca Cola bottle you buy is actually made by the Coca Cola company?

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

HartDev (1155203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925751)

I get that, but this seems like an instance where the words "Operating System" is trying to be trademarked. It is a thing! Coke and Pepsi are not trying to trademark the word "soda" or "beverage" frosty, cold cola beverage.... I could go for one of those...

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

BenihanaX (1405543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925971)

Some people use the word "coke" to refer to a soft drink, so consider that in place of "soda or beverage."

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

HartDev (1155203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926085)

That's true, I remember that in Texas, and once I said yes I was asked what flavor, that was weird.

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926251)

I get that, but this seems like an instance where the words "Operating System" is trying to be trademarked

Psion isn't trying to trademark it, it was already trademarked.

So this would be more like someone writing the first application that interfaces between hardware and software and calls it "Operating System". Then someone else write a similar program and use the term "Operating System" as a generic term for any application that interfaces between hardware and software.

Re:Miniature timeline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925741)

It is weird to me that words are now patened and whatnot

The word you're looking for is "trademark", as in "this is the mark under which I trade, so you can be guaranteed it's me whom you're dealing with".

just ridiculous.

Yes, because being able to uniquely identify an organisation or product is clearly stupid.

Working in Utah Valley [...] www.videogamefixer.com

I find it funny that this site asserts its copy rights while you get your panties in a twist about trade marks...after all, it's not like whoever wrote that owns those words, right?

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925543)

after all we have apple computer, and apples are pretty common

yes but Apple isn't a fruit vendor.

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925943)

Yes, yes, Apple is not a fruit vendor. You got the first half of my point, now maybe you will get the second half of my point.

My point was, it's more complicated than "just being generic." This guy [slashdot.org] does a pretty good job explaining it. In fact, Dell hasn't claimed that the term has become generic, rather they claim that Psion has abandoned the trademark, and that in addition Psion lied to the Trademark office.

Re:Miniature timeline (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926233)

No, but they are Ringo and Paul's record company [wikipedia.org] . So just as Apple took Apple to court, perhaps Psion do have a point.

Re:Miniature timeline (2, Interesting)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926551)

2003 - Netbook Pro is released (doesn't seem to be for sale anymore, it was a 'clamshell PDA')
2008 - Claimed genericization of the term netbook by Asus and others.

The half-a-decade without anything to continue that line in between is the saddest part of all:

With its rock-solid system and well thought-out functionality, a Psion 5mx with built-in bluetooth (they did have working prototypes already AFAIK), an upgraded touchscreen (black&white ePaper would do), processor and memory (preventing catastrophic loss when both types of battery run out after lasting weeks) would be a great device even today.

huh? (1, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925133)

Can you really make someone not talk about your product on a blog? Simply using the word netbook on your blog can get you in trouble?

Re:huh? (1)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925209)

It's not that, exactly; Psion wants people to stop referring to other companies' products as "netbooks", since supposedly only Psion can call a product a netbook.

It's like if someone starts referring to Dell desktops as iMacs (for whatever reason) on a popular blog; Apple would probably ask the blogger to stop.

Re:huh? (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925325)

Oh, ok. thx.

That brings up a good point. Anyone who says "podcast" when they really mean "sound file" should get sued.

Re:huh? (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925505)

I wasn't aware "podcast" was a trademarked term. Others have tried to trademark it, but failed.

OP Does have a good question... (3, Insightful)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925633)

Can you really make someone not talk about your product on a blog? Simply using the word netbook on your blog can get you in trouble?

Some moderators must really be in a foul mood today--it seems nearly everything's being labeled as "Offtopic." I think your question is valid since most people who skimmed the posting might be compelled to wonder the same thing (and this is Slashdot, after all, so no one's going to bother reading the article, right?).

What I'm curious about is why Psion waited so long to start sending out notices. I always thought that if a company felt it had reasonable grounds for defensibility with regards to a trademark, they wouldn't sit on their hands for months at a time. It's almost as if they were waiting to see how well netbooks performed in the market before deciding it was time to vie for a cut of the profits (probably via lawsuits). It's a conspiratorial notion, sure, but in this day and ages where patent trolling firms sit on mountains of paperwork vaguely describing some generic mechanism without any capacity for manufacturing the product on their own, sue others who "infringe," and then make their profits from settlements or royalties... it's not too far fetched!

Re:OP Does have a good question... (1)

BenihanaX (1405543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925953)

It's probably off-topic because it has nothing to do with the article, which is about a legal battle regarding a Trademark between Psion and Dell. A quick search will tell you everything you need to know about what a Trademark is and isn't.

Re:huh? (1)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926513)

The primary purpose of a trademark is to distinguish your product; to ensure that others can't sell a similar product under the same name, and fool the public into buying their knock-off instead of your original.

The biggest issue then, would be selling or promoting a competitors product called a netbook on your blog, when psion own the trademark - which is why psion have sent cease and desist notices to the makers of other netbooks. Whether they'll win, given the 5 years since psion last sold netbooks, is another question.

Generally, people have fair use of trademarks to either accurately describe an aspect of a trademarked product, or that you're using the mark to name the owner of the mark.

who gives a fuck (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925229)

dell puts linux on their machines. that means dell is a fucking joke just like linux is a joke. i'll never buy from dell again.

hey dell cunts. get rid of the faggot os.

[...]to stop using the term (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925257)

NETBOOK NETBOOK NETBOOK
So sue me.

"asking them to stop using the term netbook"
Not really sure how that's supposed to work.

Damn (3, Funny)

hamburgler007 (1420537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925275)

Why the hell did Dell have to be the voice of reason here?

Re:Damn (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926091)

They have money, lawyers, and sell pretty nice netbooks with Ubuntu pre-installed. Let's not complain. This can only be good for everyone.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925289)

I netbook think netbook that netbook Psion netbook has netbook a netbook valid netbook claim. netbook They netbook clearly netbook deserve netbook the netbook exclusive netbook use netbook of netbook the netbook term netbook "netbook" netbook. It netbook is netbook a netbook mis-justice netbook for netbook bloggers netbook and netbook computer netbook manufacturers netbook to netbook so netbook callously netbook use netbook their netbook important netbook trademark netbook.

Re:Well... (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926337)

You know, a trademark doesn't allow a company to make you stop using a word... only to stop representing your product as the trademark. You can talk about "Windows" all day long, and Microsoft can't stop you. They would only be able to stop you from distributing something (in their fields of commerce) called Windows, or a close derivative.

Why they care (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925323)

Psion only is bothering to do this for publicity. Honestly I had never heard of psion before this nonsense started. I mean, what else would propel them to make this infringement claim? They dont plan on using the term for any products, and they probably cant beat the mighty army of dell lawyers that they will be washed in.

Re:Why they care (1)

amclay (1356377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925561)

Because they might be able to sue the pants off any manufacturer that uses the term?

Re:Why they care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925795)

You may not have heard about Psion before but it was a well known company in the earlier days of computing. Its EPOC operating system was the basis for Symbian.

As for their ownership of the netbook trademark, I'm not sure if using it for accessories which they still sell to netBook and netBook Pro users counts as proper usage of the brand. If they think they still own the rights to this name, it is their duty to fight dilution if they want to keep it. This is what they've been doing.

Psion Netbook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26925401)

It would be hilarious if they would actually come out with an Atom-powered Netbook, just to prove Dell wrong.

Netbook (1)

Retron (577778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925567)

The Psion netBook was a wonderful piece of kit. I sorely wanted one ten years ago but could never afford one, I made do with a 5MX instead. Indeed, I made a nice wodge of cash when I was at Uni by writing Shareware games for Psions - the platform was such that if you wrote a game for the smallest machine in the range (Revo / Mako) it would work on the biggest (netBook).

Psion then lost it IMO, they pulled out of the consumer market and the successor to the netBook, the netBook Pro, ran WinCE rather than EPOC - yuck.

Anyway, they still sell netBook related kit, if not the machines themselves.

http://www.psionteklogix.com/public.aspx?s=uk&p=AccessoryCatalogue&pMod=48&page=1&aCat=37&aID=1714 [psionteklogix.com]

Re:Netbook (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925977)

Yea, I have Series 5 and 5mx, and I have used them a lot, lately though, I use them less and less often, because a lot of their functions can be accomplished by my laptop or my Nokia N93. The Series 5 is a great PDA because it has a keyboard which a lot of current PDAs do not. On the other hand, now I could buy Fujitsu U810 and finally have Windows on a form factor similar to the Series 7 or NetBook.

Re:Netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926497)

On the other hand, now I could buy Fujitsu U810 and finally have Windows on a form factor similar to the Series 7 or NetBook.

Strange. You speak as if having Windows was a desirable thing.

Re:Netbook (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926331)

Revo Plus owner, here... Lovely little machine...

here we go again (1)

WeeBit (961530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925785)

weebit cites Psion for Trade Mark fraud, citing Trademark Act Section 23 and Trademark Act Section 14 including also 808 F 2d 46, 1 USPQ2d 1483 of the Federal Court (1986). Lastly telling of fibs will get your mouth washed out with soap or worse!

Please sign here: X__________________________ press hard....eight copies. /sarcasm with a (attempt) at a wee bit of humor.

Dell Accuses Psion of "Fraud" Over Netbook (1)

Yosho (135835) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925873)

Psion manifests Ego Whip against Dell and augments it with 16 power points. Dell fails its saving throw, taking 14 points of charisma damage and falling unconcious.

Come on, I can't believe nobody else has said that yet.

Save the Netbooks grassroots campaign (2, Interesting)

savethenetbooks (1481739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925893)

It's unfortunate the Save the Netbooks [savethenetbooks.com] campaign was not credited in the summary (nor many of the resulting articles) for uncovering Dell's petition to cancel (note that the linked document is in our account [scribd.com] ), even if only because we have the most complete collection of information and research on the topic.

We've been working hard over the last days to overturn Psion's trademark and it was actually in the course of filing the petition to cancel that we discovered Dell had beaten us to it by a day! We're happy they're playing the white knight this time (after last year's "cloud computing" claim), and especially for their having added the "fraud" angle to our pleadings for abandonment and genericness.

Anyway we wish them the best of luck, even though we don't think they'll need it.

Save the Netbooks [savethenetbooks.com]

The netbook will die (1)

HyperMinimalism (1482375) | more than 5 years ago | (#26925913)

The word/term/product (whatever) netbook is commonly referred to as an under-powered and rather featureless notebook--albeit with lower power consumption and longer battery life.
In the short term Intel may release their stranglehold on the use of the Atom processor exclusively with their own chip set: the 945g, and allow Nvidia to sell their already completed 9400M with the Intel Atom. This is another legal battle entirely. ~_~ However the 9400M does use more power, and do not forget that VIA also offers the Nano, which also uses more power but outdoes the Atom on media intense applications that demand a stronger floating-point processor.

What does this mean? (op)
A long term outlook does not look good for the Netbook. The primary reasons why one would purchase a Netbook are narrowed by size, battery life, and style. The point, if graphed, where size and power consumption meet performance and features will be ever lowered until the term Netbook becomes nothing but a semantic, oh wait, it already is.

Psion Should Sell More Stuff (2, Insightful)

bricktower (1482519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926457)

Psion, for over a decade, sold cool PDAs that were well ahead of their time and very useful. Then Windows CE came along, Psion ran away and Windows CE almost totally abandoned the keyboarded PDA concept. That's why we've had a five year gap, followed by a line of machines that badly implement the concept with X86 processors and XP or Linux. It's good Psion have noticed this. But they have done the wrong thing. Notable examples of Psion wonderfullness: AA battery compatibility, programming language on-board, basic office suite, communications support. Given this was in 1990 - that's cool. And it was all in a package half the size of a book. Now we have 'netbooks' that are just small laptops...

Netbook vs Sub-notebook (2)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926493)

I hear more than usually, netbooks referred to "minilaptops". I try to use "netbook" if needed officially, but the "minilaptop" does sound nicer.

And when I searched littlebit around Internet, I found that there has always be a computer class called "Sub-notebook". And that is class where actually the "netbook" goes. You can find computers from toshiba and others, from 90's what are smaller than current netbooks sold, but ain't called netbooks but sub-notebooks. And they run Windows 95 or Windows 98 (newer models) easily.

So what happend when I first saw the Asus EeePC, that it is just resurecting the old Class, I tought they should get better name than "netbook". And for me the sub-notebook does sound better in the techinical view and "minilaptop" in daily talk.

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