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Netbooks Popular Enough For a C&D From Psion 234

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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  • 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.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:00PM (#26225597) Homepage Journal
    If you search here [] 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.
  • Re:Easy solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by Finallyjoined!!! ( 1158431 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:06PM (#26225659)
    Actually it's not garbage, they own the Trademark and are entitled to protect it.

    This is not some dodgy submarine "patent", it's well established Trademark law. Any commercial operation in the same situation would do the same. Even /.
  • 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:Jerks. (Score:3, Informative)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:24PM (#26225765) Journal

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

  • Re:Too late (Score:2, Informative)

    by Magic5Ball ( 188725 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:32PM (#26225825)

    Why is Psion not suing cnet, etc, for misusing the term? ... For a counterexample, see "Blackberry," who sued about the BlackJack phone for being too similarly named.

    Asked and answered. There's presently no possibility that someone could buy a small computing device made by cnet thinking it was a product having the characteristics of a Psion netBook.

  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:34PM (#26225837) Journal

    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.

  • Re:Jerks. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @04:44PM (#26225901)

    FWIW, the first thing I thought when intel started using the word was "Huh? did they buy psion"?

    Though I'm in Europe where Psion for a long time was where Palm was in the US in the PDA market. Maybe psion are/were much better known over here. Symbian used in many, many phones is also a direct descendant of the EPOC32 OS that the Psion netbook ran.

  • 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.


        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:Jerks. (Score:2, Informative)

    by aesiamun ( 862627 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:32PM (#26226231) Homepage Journal

    Tell that to the south where you can order an orange coke or a grape coke or a mountain dew coke...

  • Re:Jerks. (Score:3, Informative)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:43PM (#26226299) Homepage
    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 pleased user and promoter of the Series3 and its successor the Revo/Mako, which I nursed along for years after they stopped making them, since no other solution available (e.g. Palm, WinCE, RIM) was as powerful and easy to use. (I finally gave up and got an iPod Touch earlier this year.) And as a matter of fact, they did create one of the first "netbooks" as we know them today (a Symbian-based device which they called... the "netBook") well before Asus et al did.

    But the netBook is no more... and the same can be said of the Psion I just described.
  • by yog ( 19073 ) * on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @05:52PM (#26226363) Homepage Journal

    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" [] 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 it. A similar situation occurred in the late 1980s for those old enough to remember: a PC manufacturer trademarked the term "Tower" as in Tower PC, an upright form factor for (what we used to call) IBM compatibles. The term quickly spread and the manufacturer threatened to sue several other PC makers. I remember that one in particular changed their product from "Tower 286" to "Power 286". (Yeah, I'm old :)) Needless to say, "tower" stuck as a common term and that company lost control of it.

    This is not as egregious as someone trying to co-opt the term "google" or "xerox" for commercial gain, even though these words have nonetheless become household terms. Actually, about 20 years ago Xerox tried to get their name back by warning people not to say "xerox" as a verb, especially when it wasn't actually a Xerox machine. But they failed, just as they failed in several other wrong headed pursuits such as suing Apple for its GUI and suing Palm for using Graffiti.

    I think the moral high road is simply to keep on innovating and don't worry so much about empty words. I'd love to see Psion come out with some innovative products; they've always been a good company. As a commenter put it on the article site, R&D is better than C&D.

  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:02PM (#26226417) Homepage Journal

    Their netbooks were basically overglorified organizers.

    Their trademark is filed under "Goods and Services: laptop computers". That doesn't leave much room.

  • 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.

  • by Xerolooper ( 1247258 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:20PM (#26226529)
    So you live near Somerset England. Cheddar [] That was an unfortunate example. It was brought into the common usage long before marketing was an issue.
  • by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [45ttam.yrrep]> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:30PM (#26226573)

    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.

    Yep, Psion made one and called it the NetBook. Here's a review of one of them from March 2000 [].

  • Re:Jerks. (Score:3, Informative)

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @09:08PM (#26227419)

    Psion isn't an empty husk. They are marketing lots of products now. Just not into the consumer market. They do industrial mobile computers.

    Thankfully, trademarks that become generic terms become invalid.

    Not true. Coke, Hoover, Band-Aid, Frisbee, Xerox, Tupperware, etc are used by people generally to describe a class of products. And yet the trademarks still belong to the companies that originated them. They can prevent over companies from using them.

    Even if what you said was true, the generic use of the term Netbook isn't that old (it only seems so in internet time). Psion certainly haven't waited too long to defend their trademark.

  • by mbeckman ( 645148 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @10:01PM (#26227673)
    You repeat an oft-believed myth: that Xerox lost its trademark through "genericide." Xerox successfully defended its 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 defend their trademark in a reasonable number of cases, in a reasonable timeframe. The term "Netbook" is new -- try to find a reference before 2007. Psion is easily within the PTO's sense of a reasonable timeframe.

    Anyone fighting this battle will lose. Just look at the Cisco lawsuit against Apple over iPhone: Apple had to settle despite the fact that Cisco only obtained the trademark through the acquisition of Infogear Technology. Cisco won the iPhone VPN franchise -- not likely a coincidence, and a heck of a spoil in anyone's book. And Cisco can _still_ use the iPhone trademark for its own products.

    Sailed schailed. This ship is in dry dock.

  • by Basje ( 26968 ) <> 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 [] and wind netbook []. I'm sure they would have registered netbook if it wasn't already taken []

    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 [].

    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.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun