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Netbooks Popular Enough For a C&D From Psion 234

Posted by timothy
from the real-mark-of-success dept.
Kevin C. Tofel writes "After watching the netbook industry explode from nothing to 14 million sales in year, the time is right for Cease & Desist letters. Psion, a UK computer company that years ago sold a small sub-notebook called a netBook, is starting to protect the term. At least one netbook enthusiast site received a C&D for using the 'netbook' term and others are sure to follow. The site was given three months to stop using the term. Ironically, it isn't the enthusiast sites that coined the popular term. In the spring of 2008, Intel dubbed these devices netbooks to help define a market for their low-powered Intel Atom CPU."
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Netbooks Popular Enough For a C&D From Psion

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  • Jerks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @03:50PM (#26225521)
    Makes me ashamed that I used one of their handheld models as the configuration tool for an industrial data acquisition system I used to sell. Lawyers are going to get this civilization so wrapped up in red tape that progress is impossible.
    • Re:Jerks. (Score:5, Informative)

      by bmo (77928) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @03:58PM (#26225581)

      Hey uh, unlike patent and trademark trolls, apparently Psion are still using the trademark, which they did come up with on their own before anyone else.

      The only jerks here are you and your knee.

      --
      BMO

      • Re:Jerks. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:06PM (#26225655)

        But they didn't protect it until now.

        • Re:Jerks. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by frosty_tsm (933163) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:37PM (#26225861)

          Maybe there wasn't a need until now.

        • Re:Jerks. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Gerald (9696) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:25PM (#26226193) Homepage

          Not publicly. My experience has been:

          1) Notice (or be notified of) a copyright or trademark offense.

          2) Try to contact the company.

          3) Get a reply from person 1 who:

              a) Doesn't have the power to fix anything.

              and/or

              b) Doesn't care.

          4) Go back and forth with person 1 for a few months.

          5) Deal with person 2..n who:

              a) Took over for person n-1 when they:

                  i) Quit.
                  ii) Went on vacation or maternity leave.

              b) Is person n-1's supervisor or someone from a completely different department in another time zone (and who can't change anything or doesn't care).

          This goes on for several months until I send an angry certified letter to the president of the company or hand the matter over to my lawyer.

          It's quite possible that Psion are a gaggle of jerks. It's also possible that they've been trying to get this resolved privately with no joy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) *
        Maybe ... but I didn't call you any bad names. So I guess this qualifies you for jerkhood as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by larry bagina (561269)

          Read that again. This time with emphasis on the words jerk and knee.

          • Read that again. This time with emphasis on the words jerk and knee.

            Yeah ok. Too much Bailey's in my coffee (hey it is Christmas Eve here.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by base3 (539820)
        No they're not--they used to use it, and it's a sufficiently generic term that they're going to lose their trademark anyway (except for maybe the sort of camel-case variation). From the summary (emphasis mine)

        that years ago sold a small sub-notebook called a netBook

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Just Some Guy (3352)

          it's a sufficiently generic term that they're going to lose their trademark anyway

          How do you figure? I'd never heard the word before Intel started tossing it around. It might be generic now, but I imagine that's one of their arguments in the suit.

        • Re:Jerks. (Score:4, Informative)

          by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:05PM (#26226435)

          I used to have Psion Netbook. Pretty much the same idea as "netbooks now". Similar proportions, very modest tech spec, can add apps, but mostly intended to be used with the built in apps, much cheaper than a laptop.

          But they were about 8 years too early to market. And they didn't sell many.

          They don't currently have a netbook but thay probably see that now is the right time to resurrect the idea and call it the Psion Netbook again. And to do that they need to and have a perfect right to prevent others from using their trademark.

          Everyone who says the concept and the name is obvious, wasn't paying attention back in the years when Psion was first working on this stuff. Not only was it not obvious, most couldn't at that time see it was a valid market - it was too different.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        Their loss, a trademark that becomes a generic term is pretty much lost.

      • Unfortunately this is another case of someone not knowing what the hell is going on.

        No knee jerking there, they don't make the netBook anymore.

        While they own the trademark, unfortunately they haven't acted on something that's now a colloquial term for a small ultra-portable notebook.

        They had their chance years ago to enforce their trademark, they dropped the ball really. It would be like Johnson & Johnson banning the use of the term Band-Aid for non-Band-Aid products. It's become part of our language an

    • Lawyers are going to get this civilization so wrapped up in red tape that progress is impossible.

      Uh DUH!!! That's the whole fucking point. It's called solidification of power for a reason. Lawyers are the new Lords of today. Only they can control what the serfs may or may not do.

      • by decoy256 (1335427)
        Riiiight... it's the LAWYERS' fault... and it has nothing to do with people who just like to bitch and moan and want something for nothing.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Cool people call them "Liliputers" anyway. http://www.liliputing.com/ [liliputing.com]

      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        Personally I never understood why they weren't called Webbooks myself. After all there are plenty of things to do on the net like gaming and HD streaming that these little underpowered laptops would just suck at, whereas if you say the web to most folks they are going to think of web surfing and web mail, which is what I bet the vast majority of the netbook users are doing with them anyway. So if this bunch wants to have their little fit over the name I say fine, let them have it. We should just switch to c
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tverbeek (457094)
      Psion used to be a wonderful company with innovative software and hardware engineering, and excellent customer service. Back when the Sharp Wizard and Casio BOSS were the (dismal) state of the art in pocketable computers, they leveraged their expertise in industrial data-collection devices to produce a vastly superior (but inadequately marketed) handheld computer called the Series3. The rock-solid software they developed was the basis for the Symbian OS that runs so many smartphones today. I was a very p
      • Psions in general were indeed nice machines

        For the netbook though I would point out that there were both wince machines (e.g. the hp journada) and ultraportable laptops (e.g. the toshiba libretto) arround at the same time in similar form factors.

        IMO the modern netbook fulfills two niches
        1: those who want an ultraportable laptop to run thier standard software on the move (the psion netbook couldn't do this as it used an arm processor and epoc)
        2: those who want a machine for mobile internet (which didn't real

  • Next thing you know, they'll sic their lawyers on folks selling "organizers".

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:00PM (#26225597) Homepage Journal
    If you search here [uspto.gov] for the term "Netbook", 18 entries come up, one of which is a live trademark assigned to Psion. It's interesting that neither Intel nor the various manufacturers and retailers marketing computers under the term "netbook" took the trouble to do this simple web search.
    • Their netbooks were basically overglorified organizers. These netbooks are fully-functional PCs in small packages, an arguably different market segment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by yog (19073) *

      I agree with the parent. Psion PLC previously developed a product called the "netBook", although it is no longer in production. However a sister company or umbrella company "Psion Teklogix" [psionteklogix.com] appears to have a current product that uses the "netBook" name. Maybe someone else can tease out exactly what these companies have in common, but at any rate the term appears to be a valid trademark that is in current use.

      Unfortunately for them, it has also become a common term and they may have trouble holding on to

      • by ishobo (160209)

        A division of the same company. The Psion of old is no more. They sold or closed most of their assests and bought Teklogix. Their netbook was EOLed in 2003 but it looks like they are still providing service for the device. That means the mark is still being used in trade.

    • by Basje (26968) <bas@bloemsaat.org> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @06:47AM (#26229299) Homepage

      They did. In europe, both Fujitsu Siemens and MSI registered netbook trademarks of their own: amilo netbook [europa.eu] and wind netbook [europa.eu]. I'm sure they would have registered netbook if it wasn't already taken [europa.eu]

      However, many jurisdictions including Europe rule that a registered trademark has to be in genuine use. If it has not seen genuine use, it can be revoked (art 15 and 50 of Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 [europa.eu].

      I suspect that is also the reason for the late C&D. This ground for revocation of a trademark can be repaired. However, there is usually a grace period (3 months for a Community Trademark, art. 50 CE 40/94). I would not be surprised to find that Psion started using the trademark again a little over three or six months ago. That would mean they had to wait until now to C&D without risk to their trademark.

      NB: although I'm an IP lawyer in Europe, this is _not_ legal advise.

  • Its a cheddar thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thermian (1267986) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:01PM (#26225611)

    Cheddar, a class of cheese we all know, is in reality a particular type of cheese, from a particular location (not too far from where I live). Alas they didn't defend their mark, and now Cheddar is a generic term used to describe mostly low quality cheap cheese sold in vast amounts. Barely anyone has eaten 'real' Cheddar.

    They tried to retrieve their mark from this widespread use by other manufacturers, but failed because they left it too long.

    Thats what this is about, they want to retain their mark, its not about 'evil', if it were, then the real Cheddar makers are also evil, since this is a similar case. It may or may not be too late, but if they do nothing, they lose it anyway.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by larry bagina (561269)

      That's not really the same. The EU is big on protected designation of origin, for things like Champaign (sparkling wine), Cognac (brandy), Parmigiano (cheese), etc. Those, like Cheddar (cheese), are locations, not a phrase trademarked by an individual or company.

    • by Arterion (941661)

      So what should people be calling cheddar cheese? A cheddar-style cheese? Or is that to say the only types of cheeses made in Cheddar is, in fact, cheddar cheese? What if a cheesemaker in Cheddar were to make swiss-style cheese? Would it properly be called "Cheddar Cheese" as well?

      I think the term cheddar is for a style of cheese, with a particular flavor, not cheese from a particular place. And when you think about it, that makes a lot more sense.

      • by Chyeld (713439)

        I buy "chocolate candy" [consumerist.com]. I buy "Chicago style", "St Louis style", "New York style", and even "California-style" pizzas, depending on my mood.

        Most of the cheese I consume is actually labeled "processed cheese".

        I don't see why, had Cheddar been protected, we couldn't have called the 'knock offs' something different.
         

    • Same thing with champagne [wikipedia.org], although it seems that makers from the actual region of Champagne have been a little more successful defending its marketing use as an exclusive right for that region only. Still, it is consistently misidentified in the common vernacular.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Xerolooper (1247258)
      So you live near Somerset England. Cheddar [icons.org.uk] That was an unfortunate example. It was brought into the common usage long before marketing was an issue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jpatters (883)

      Anyone who hasn't tasted a genuine Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese hasn't tasted the best Cheddar cheese there is.

      • Anyone who hasn't tasted a genuine Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese hasn't tasted the best Cheddar cheese there is.

        No doubt this coming from someone who hasn't tasted real Cheddar, knows little about making cheese, and even less about the care and feeding of cows. I'm sorry, but past the occasional one-off specialty cheeses coming from Vermont, or California, for that matter, all such cheese is a generic waxy food product.

        The regrettable thing is that most such "cheese" is sold or marketed in a deceptive

  • Notapieceofshitpsionbook
  • Hormel and Adobe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananatree3 (872975) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:03PM (#26225635)
    Psion, welcome to the ranks of Hormel and Adobe...

    You aren't going to pull this name from the clutches of the tech culture...Just like Spam and Photoshopping.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by icegreentea (974342)
      They still need to try. As stupid as this is, it's to be expected. Psion realistically does not have any chance of reclaiming exclusive use of the term netbook in regards to computers, and they know it. They're just doing it to go through the stupid steps of trademark law. Why the hell do you think they haven't sent C&Ds at Intel or Asus or any 'big' blog (Ars?). I mean, ASUS actively markets eeepcs as 'Netbooks' (see linky at the bottom). Psion is probably just throwing out some random C&Ds so when
      • by LMacG (118321) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:21PM (#26225751) Journal

        How do you know that they haven't already been in contact with Intel or Asus? Perhaps when large corporations get a legal communication, they don't go running to their Wordpress installation, along with Twitter and Facebook, to post about how that other big bad company is being so mean to them.

    • by sane? (179855)

      Actually they probably will win.

      They coined the term many years ago, and its only recently (within this year) that people have started to use it for low powered intel boxes. Its the same market space and its likely they can claim that in the time between then and now they have been pursuing more discrete solutions.

      Its a pity that this intel netbook crowd didn't learn more lessons from Psion about how to create workable small scale computers.

      • Its a pity that this intel netbook crowd didn't learn more lessons from Psion about how to create workable small scale computers.

        Indeed, I'm still using my Series 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psion_Series_5 [wikipedia.org] daily.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        They can win against "netbook" manufacturers. They can't win against websites using the term as it used in common speech. Worse, establishing the term has moved into a generic term for a whole class of computers would void their trademark.

        Not only will they lose the lawsuit (assuming the site can afford to defend itself) but they will lose the trademark as well.

        • Worse, establishing the term has moved into a generic term for a whole class of computers would void their trademark.

          Not only will they lose the lawsuit (assuming the site can afford to defend itself) but they will lose the trademark as well.

          First, if you would read the article, you would see that there is no lawsuit. All that has happened is that Psion has asked web site owners to stop using their trademark.

          Second, both outcomes that you state above are highly unlikely. The term has hardly been in use for

      • Its a pity that this intel netbook crowd didn't learn more lessons from Psion about how to create workable small scale computers.

        Even more so that Psion left the market and never really realized the potential for their products. I used a 5 for along time; great little device. There app suite was pretty decent, to teh point where you could get real work done on them.

        One can only wonder what Psion would have today had they been able to continue developing the 5 and 7 series.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        Its a pity that this intel netbook crowd didn't learn more lessons from Psion about how to create workable small scale computers.

        Like... what?

        Humor us Psion-ignorant people.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Epsillon (608775)

          OPL for a start. It was a surprisingly robust language back in the day, although when I created a stock control reporting app (the Psion dumped its data to a CSV file that was read into dBase for DOS - high tech shit indeed) in OPL on the Psion II (yeah, yeah, get off my lawn you damned kids) access to a UV EPROM eraser was almost mandatory... :o)

          OK, I'm joking. I think it's more likely to be "not pretending it's something it isn't." Small sub-notebooks (and these are not a new idea- the Tosh Libretto [wikipedia.org] was a

  • So... just curious: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:08PM (#26225673) Journal

    When do they start suing the Intel Corporation or Acer (one of whom had coined the term IIRC), and not the penny-ante hobbyist sites?

    Ah - but I guess it's cheaper and easier to pick on the small fry first, eh?

    Seriously - yes Psion has a real trademark on it, but what kind of screwball system do we all live in where (litigation-wise) the little guy gets it in the neck first?

    /P

    • They aren't suing.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:15PM (#26225711)
      It's just a Cease & Desist letter. They have also, reasonably IMHO, given them 3 months to stop using their Trademark.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rm999 (775449)

      My guess is there will be no lawsuits, because they have a registered trademark. If there are any lawsuits, it would be the likes of Intel bullying Psion out of their actively-used trademark, not the other way around.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Duradin (1261418)
        I wasn't aware psion was still in business. I thought the psion series went the way of the newton around the time of palm/handspring era. I'd never heard of a psion netBook. I'm not sure that level of non-advertising counts as actively used.
    • by internewt (640704) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:35PM (#26225851) Journal

      I think in situations like this, the attack lawyers start on the hobiests and little guys first as part of a bigger plan, or just readiness for if the fight gets big.

      If they went straight after Intel then Intel would speak to its vast army of lawyers who are already on the staff (just like all big corps.). Those lawyers would soon find (for example - IANAL) that netbook is pretty generic and Psion haven't been protecting their trademark for years. Basically, the Intel lawyers would be able to put up a fight that will cost Psion money and they could lose totally too.

      If Psion go for a few small guys, then the chances of them just submitted are much higher. If Psion then goes after Intel, Psion at least has some examples of them successfully defending their trademark. Psion would argue that the capitulation of the little guy was because the big guy was correct in his assertion of the trademark, and not of course because small-time hobbiests can't afford nor want to waste time defending their use of what they thought was just a portmanteau of network (or internet) and notebook.

      • As a corollary, this is exactly why the RIAA is suing the hell out of 75 year old blind armless grandmothers and not, say... Harvard.

        Combine some Little Guy crushing with a tech-unsavvy judge in the jurisdiction of your choosing and WHAMMO!. Profit.

    • When do they start suing the Intel Corporation or Acer (one of whom had coined the term IIRC), and not the penny-ante hobbyist sites?

      Ah - but I guess it's cheaper and easier to pick on the small fry first, eh?

      Seriously - yes Psion has a real trademark on it, but what kind of screwball system do we all live in where (litigation-wise) the little guy gets it in the neck first?

      /P

      They have to protect the trademark; which means going after unauthorized use, no matter where it happens.

      If they ignore the little guys the big guys will use that to argue the term has become a generic moniker for, well, Netbooks tm.

      At least Psion appears to be reasonable and give people a some time to stop using their trademark.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      The proper hobbyist reaction might be a serious hate-on for Psion.

      The "hobbyists" aren't the ones who made their marketing decisions. Psion had a chance to stay relevant and blew it long ago by using WinCE and a non-x86 processor.
      Those who fuck with "hobbyists" might note that hobbyists make purchase decisions at their day jobs. If a company pisses me off I'd go out of my way to to buy their stuff, recommend others seek alternative (without mentioning my ire), and in general refuse to support them.

      • by raynet (51803)

        I didn't know they had WinCE devices? I thought that their PDAs and netbook type of devices (Series 7 and netBook) used Symbian OS and ARM cpus. And using ARM was a great idea as it was more power efficient than pentiums etc at that time. My old Psion Series 7 with 133MHz ARM still easily lasts 13+ hours on single battery.

    • When do they start suing the Intel Corporation or Acer (one of whom had coined the term IIRC), and not the penny-ante hobbyist sites?

      No one has been sued. All that's happened is a few web sites have received a letter that asks them to stop using the company's trademarked term. They also gave them one-fourth of a year to make the necessary changes. That's pretty generous.

    • When do they start suing the Intel Corporation or Acer (one of whom had coined the term IIRC)...

      Ding! That's the sound of your head ringing after being struck by a cluebat.

      The whole point is that Psion coined, and trademarked, the term several years ago. Neither Intel nor Acer coined the term, despite what the bogus article summary says.

      In fact I even own one of the Psion netbooks. It's actually not particularly old; maybe four years. I have older machines that are still in active use. If the L

  • The term netbook is used in common speech to refer to a collection of a certain type of laptop. A bunch of websites are writing content using that term. They may be selling advertising, but they aren't netbook manufacturers. They can't tell websites not to use the term.

    Psion doesn't get to regulate how a word is used in common speech only if competitors can use it. The websites can keep their content up, there is no violation.

  • by ahecht (567934) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:51PM (#26225945) Homepage

    I never really liked the "Netbook" name all that much (especially since I use mine more for note taking and word processing, not surfing), and I think "Laptot" fits a whole lot better. Plus, since "Laptots" were African colonial troops in the service of France between 1750 and the early 1900s, it is unlikely to be trademarked.

  • Before you go and start crapping all over Psion, consider the way that patents and trademarks work. I think that a lot of folks here are applying what they know about one to the other. It is a common enough problem.

    A patent is enforceable whether you decide to enforce it or not. So, if you decided to enforce it vs. one single company while many others were ripping you off, you could do that.

    A trademark, however, becomes diluted if you either selectively enforce, or if you do not enforce it. In other words,

  • I mean, really. A subnotebook is smaller and lighter than a "standard issue" laptop - my 12" powerbook G4 would have been a great example of this a few years ago. Of course, "netbooks" are typically smaller than that - even smaller than the Apple Duo! - but they''re still ultimately Bonsai Laptops and in some configurations can be used for Actual Work.*

    They're just wee. "netbook" to me has negative connotations - it rings up an image of a Sun Ray [wikipedia.org] - a piece of hardware that's completely, entirely useless

  • I suspect that by now, the term "netbook" has become generic and they have no claim. They still have rights to "Psion Netbook".

  • by mbeckman (645148) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:37PM (#26226261)
    Calm down all you flamers. Psion is doing nothing wrong. This is perfectly moral and legal behavior on their part. They invented the term Netbook and are entitled to keep it as a trademark as long as they want. They still use the term in commerce and thus they still hold legal ownership under U.S. and international trademark law. No different from Apple's continued ownership of PowerBook. It's Psion's property and if you're griping about it you're simply being hypocritical, unless you are willing to give up your own intellectual property without a fight. The right thing for all of us to do is to simply switch to another term. Netbook is inaccurate in any case. The salient feature of these devices is not their network connectivity -- every notebook has that. It's their miniature size. These devices are all about the dimensions of the defunct palmtop form factor (sold by IBM, Sony, Acer, etc). Those did _not_ have much in the way of network ability, so a natural and more accurate name for these new devices is netpalmtop.
    • the ship has sailed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alizard (107678)

      Results 1 - 10 of about 27,000,000 for netbook.

      Dell Netbook Only $349 www.dell.com/mini Save with Dell's Powerful Mini PC Affordable, Powerful, and Mobile!

      IdeaPad S10 Netbook $349 www.Lenovo.com/IdeaPad Easy to Carry. Easy to Connect. Enviably Cool. All-New IdeaPad S10

      HP Mini Atom Netbook

      Like fiberglass and xerox, the word is in common usage and I expect the trademark to be invalidated the first time Psion runs into a company or individual ready to fight.

      A trademark has to be defende

      • You repeat an oft-believed myth: that Xerox lost its trademark through "genericide." Xerox successfully defended its trademark (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark). If you infringe the Xerox mark today, you can and will be prosecuted. Xerox is more persistent than Scient010gy in that regard.

        Another common misconception is that the "first misuse" of a trademark must be prosecuted, or that even most infringements must be prosecuted. A TM owner only has to show that they made an effort to

  • Why is this tagged "court"? No court is involved here. Wouldn't it be more accurate to tag it law or legal?

  • I told here many times this was a PSION trademark... the netBook was actually a nice device, appart from the unfinished JVM.

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