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Palm gets snotty with Palm-friendly Web sites

License and use the names we tell you to - or else

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Palm has been tacitly threatening Web sites set up by fans of its PDAs with legal action for alleged trademark infringement if they don't license the company's name or change their own.

A number of sites, including PalmSorcerer, PalmGuru and PalmLoyal, have been told by Palm that they must come up the new monikers or modify their names to replace 'Palm' with 'PalmOS'.

Says Palm's trademark usage rules: "Third-party Web sites should not use 'Palm' as part of their top-level domain names. After signing a no-fee licence agreement, they can use 'PalmOS' as part of their top-level domain names."

At issue appears to be their domain names rather than the titles of the sites themselves. Palm is essentially saying that 'www.palmguru.com' must be changed, but, say, 'www.pda.com/palmguru/' is acceptible as is.

To be fair to Palm, it's not charging sites money to use its name, but it does seem a little mean-spirited to us to force established sites to switch from 'Palm' to 'PalmOS' - or even to come up with something else altogether.

Not least because many will choose a vendor-neutral name, which will hardly serve to boost the company's profile. Indeed, the recently launched PalmGoddess site has already changed to PocketGoddess to avoid any future entanglements with Palm. Many vistors to the site will, of course, assume its more about PocketPC than Palm.

The same is true of PocketAnywhere.com, the new name PalmGuru has chosen.

Behind the move appears to be Palm's decision to split in twain, Psion-fashion, into a PDA maker and a separate provider of the core PalmOS technology. The company's trademark rules clearly serve to promote the generic name 'PalmOS' rather than the vendor-specific 'Palm', as if ordinary consumers do or will ever make such a distinction in any case.

That's clearly what's worrying Palm, particularly now that licensees like Sony and Handspring are, nominally at least, making Palm devices. As Palm's senior trademark counsel, Jason Firth, told PalmLoyal, the company is now open to harm by association from the actions of third parties. In short, if someone makes a duff PalmOS-based PDA, Palm gets tarnished with the same brush.

That's probably true - Palm is a far stronger PDA brand than any of its licensees' own brands or even those of its competitors. And unlike Sony, Compaq, Casio, Hewlett-Packard and even Microsoft, its fortunes are tied to a single product category.

It ought to be more consistent, then. We note that Palm is now suggesting that third parties use stress that their products are for 'PalmOS handhelds' or 'for PalmOS', but as yet it hasn't got rid of the 'Palm powered' logo. If it wants to distinguish clearly between 'Palm' and 'PalmOS' - which affect products that are sold to consumers - it should do so before bothering sites that largely preach to the converted.

And certainly not if it only serves to weaken the very brands it hopes its trademark rules will strengthen. ®

Related Link

PalmLoyal: Palm and trademarks

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