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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.
  • by raburton (1281780) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @03:59PM (#26225589)
    > Honestly, does anyone know? This is just stupid and it completely inhibits progress.

    Patents maybe, but how on earth does a trademark stop progress?

    And for that matter what wrong with trademarks? Sure, in this case they aren't doing a lot with the brand, but they coined the term, registered it properly years ago and used it for products that these new ones are very similar to. The potential for confusion is there, especially if psion might be planning on making further use of their brand.

    This appears to be trademark law working as it's designed to, so while this is an interesting story, it doesn't seem like one we should all be whining about.
  • 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: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:2, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:06PM (#26225663)
    Maybe ... but I didn't call you any bad names. So I guess this qualifies you for jerkhood as well.
  • Re:Jerks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by base3 (539820) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:08PM (#26225667)
    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

  • by EdotOrg (18710) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:20PM (#26225739)

    "Subnotebook accurately describes what it is but has the added benefit of being immediately understood."

    Correct on the first part, incorrect on the second. You may be too close to the technology, but Average Joe (plumber or not) would respond with a blank stare if asked about a "subnotebook".

    What, is that the part underneath the regular notebook?

  • Re:Jerks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:20PM (#26225741) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • by Duradin (1261418) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:54PM (#26225961)
    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 jonbryce (703250) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:20PM (#26226155) Homepage

    But I didn't for one minute think Psion was making these things. I was quite aware that Asus, Elonex, HP, Toshiba, Acer etc were making them.

  • Re:Jerks. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:32PM (#26226233)

    That's not how it works.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:38PM (#26226267)

    Yes, but in this case, sadly, they waited too long given how fast the tech market moves.

  • Re:Jerks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:46PM (#26226319) Homepage Journal

    Seems a pretty natural compound of "net" and "notebook" and thus generic.

    "Coca-Cola" seems like a pretty natural compound of "coca" and "cola", but good look getting that one invalidated.

    "Netbook" is clearly an invented word, even if its etymology is obvious. There are millions of trademarks that you and I haven't heard of that are perfectly valid and legitimate, and it sounds like this is one of them.

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