Blogger fights Psion's claim to 'netbook' name
A campaign has been launched to thwart Psion Techlogix's attempt to re-assert its trademark over the name "netbook".
A blogger who claimed to have helped thwart Dell's attempt to trademark "cloud computing" has called on OEMs and retailers to stand their ground and continue using the phrase "netbook" when describing sub-notebooks and their components past a deadline of March 31.
Sam Johnson has also called on Google to reverse an AdWords ban on the use of the phrase "netbooks," for consumers to boycott "offending products", and for journalists and bloggers to continue employing "netbook" and reject alternatives such as "ultra-portable".
Johnson claimed one early victory, saying the Google AdWords netbook ban appeared to have been lifted. Asked about the potential changes, Google told The Reg it does not comment on specific keywords.
A cursory search online, meanwhile, showed both search engine companies and retailers continue to use the phrase "netbook" in their search terms or their product description pages. Google, MSN and Yahoo pulled back pages that described "netbooks" from OEMs, while online and clicks-and-mortar retailers Amazon, Newegg, Buy.com, and Target among others continued to run product descriptions of sub-noteboks as netbooks.
Johnson, the chief technology officer for cloud services company Australian Online Solutions, is basing his campaign on the fact that the phrase "netbook" is too generic to be owned or enforced by a single company.
Accordingly, he has listed product pages from Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitusu, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, and Microsoft among others that directly refer to netbooks or netbook-related products.
The company's claim is further weakened, he said, by the fact Psion is asserting its trademark now that the netbook market is turning into a multi-billion-dollar industry having let its own "Netbook" brand lapse. He complimented the company for "considerable chutzpah."
The campaign comes after Psion last month issued a statement confirming that in December, it had sent hundreds of letters to OEMs and retailers asking they stop using the phrase "netbook" to describe sub-notebook machines, claiming it infringes on registered trademarks in the US, Europe, Canada, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The letter gave recipients until March 31 to stop using "netbook" and find some alternative, while January's smoothly worded statement (here (warning: PDF)) said litigation was a last resort.
Psion trademarked the name "Netbook" in 1996 and shipped its first device in 1999. That line stopped with the Netbook Pro in 2003 running Windows CE, and Netbook today refers to a line of accessories like battery packs.
Rather incredibly, Psion has argued the phrase "netbook" cannot be considered a generic term because there are so few devices out there.
Yet, it goes on, things reached some kind of mysterious tipping point in the third quarter of 2008. That's because the industry's continued use of the term "netbook" risked finding its way into consumers' consciousness, producing a critical mass, resulting in the genericisation of the trademark.
"Even though 'netbook' is not yet a generic term for ordinary buyers of these products, it could become so soon if retailers (and others) persist in calling these devices 'netbooks'," the company's statement claimed.
Psion did not respond to questions to answer what precisely happened on or about the third quarter to spur it to action. According to the statement, though: "Psion acted promptly once it became clear that the threat of genericisation was real and growing."
The company was being cagey on what it planned to do should it scare people off using "netbook" so glibly. "We have been considering adding new models to our 'Netbook' line for a while, but our policy is not to pre-announce new products," the statement said. ®
Psion FX irony
Actually, I'd forgotten this. Anandtech did a feature on a "Psion FX" concept - a Psion 5 form-factor machine with updated technology, one variant of which would be a very small conventional subnotebook. I remember thinking of it when the EeePC was first launched - although the Vaio P is nearer to it. I always thought the 5 and 5MX were more appealing than the 7/Netbook, although a decent and cheap "always on" internet device to leave by the sofa would still be handy. (Existing laptops and n770-alikes don't quite cut it.)
As for phones, I'm tempted by a TouchHD but would probably wait for the keyboarded Touch Pro 2 to turn up (or for someone to make an Android phone with a WVGA screen). I like my Tosh G900 (and it's why I wasn't prepared to get a 1024x600 "netbook", hence my mini-note), but it's painfully slow - especially compared with a Psion!
I still dream the 'If only ...' scenario to this day
Bit Fiddler has eloquently (and passionately / emotionally?) said the crux of what I wanted say. I have had 'Netbook' as a Google saved search for many many years now (I have had numerous Psion machines since I was at school back in the 80s and later at my 1st job at BBC TVC at Wood Lane).
I am (sorry I know it is boring, but heck I still feel SO passionate about this) ... STILL mad at Psion for screwing up all those years ago + bailing out of the consumer sector. I am also still ASTONISHED at how brilliant my EPOC Psion NetBook still is, (and how long the battery lasts). Psion got arrogant and lazy & did not know what modern marketing and branding or 'spinning' was. Very sad, VERY British disease. Back in early 00s everyone who loved (or wanted to like) Psions such as the excellent 5mx was simply wanting to keep all the good bits, but with a few new things:
* Synchronisation that just worked: ironically given to us in 2.3.3. as Psion sailed off into the corporate only harbours.
* I will leave out colour screens arguement (in 5mx or Revo form size) as I personally agree with Psion that it would have had detrimental effect on battery life.
... Without going into excessive detail, basically new things like Bluetooth, USB ports etc etc were becoming excepted standards ... and Psion seemed to be doing diddly about reating to a changing marletplace. Technical hurdles to integrate into ER5/ER6+ ? - hell yes I am sure. But if you are the LEADER in something ...surely it is worth fighting on? Being OPEN MINDED about attracting fresh blood (younger and older customers who are less geeky or technically minded & like 'wow' factor), BUT while keeping the old faithful on board.
Sorry to rant so uncontrollably ... but I laugh at all these crappy 'netbook' pretenders. My EPOC NetBook (TM) is still king for me in form factor and speed. Instant on, no gimmicks, touchscreen AND nearly 100% sized keyboard.
P.S. - I would still PAY handsomely to upgrade the screen to a transflective (daylight freindly) alternative - just like the option you had on the NetPad.
P.P.S. - My Nokia 9500 Communicator is still second best (and hinge on one side is now broken) ... maybe I should got an S60 E90 as a replacement instead of my ergonomic joke of a Windows Mobile HTC Touch HD* ? *From all the hype I eventually got this on contract (Orange) ... 1st consideration of a Windows Mobile device ... not bad speed / reliabilty-wise ... but I miss Nokia Communicator form-factor.
rant over. Andrew (UK)
Too little, too late
I would have sympathy for Psion had they reacted a year or so ago, when the term "netbook" was first used to discuss the Eee-like subnotebooks. Had they turned around *then* and said 'sorry, it's our brand-name', I would have cheered them on, even though that line was (is?) discontinued.
But waiting 1+year until the industry has adopted the word and *then* bitching about it. Nope, sorry. One of the responsibilities as a Trademark owner is *defending* your trademark as soon as you find an infringement (registering the trademark, BTW, simply allows you to assert your right to the trademark - it does not mean the government will do it for you). Other companies found this out the hard way (think "aspirin", for example).
So in this case, either Psion dropped the ball and did not apply the due care and diligence it was supposed to apply to the protection of its brand-name... or they're doing the Trademark equivalent of what other companies do with Patents.
Either way, I personally would rule against them. But then again, IANAL.
Well, well, well
I'm gonna have to get a xerox of those letters, sit down with a box of kleenex since I'll be bawling my eyes out while googling for photoshopped pics on my netbook.
On the one hand we have a self-aggrandizing member of the blogosphere who doesn't understand the difference between Dell trying to trademark a term already in widespread use vs. Psion trying to stop other companies using a term that they had already trademarked and used on a real, shipping product. I could root for Psion here just because that sort of blogtard really irks me.
On the other hand, we have the ghost of a once-great company rattling its chains and getting entirely too heavy-handed in their response. That irks me too.