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Intel sues Psion over 'netbook' trademark

Chip giant accuses PDA pioneer of dirty tricks

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Intel has followed Dell and launched legal action against Psion to recover 'netbook' as a generic term for little laptops. And it accuses the PDA pioneer of fibbing to US trademark overseers.

In a complaint filed with the US District Court of Northern California earlier this month, the chip giant asks that Psion Teklogix's Netbook trademark be negated. Psion owns the right to the word 'Netbook', having trademarked the term when it created the Psion Netbook handheld computer in the late 1990s.

Fair enough, but Psion no longer makes the Netbook and - as Intel states in its complaint - "the consuming public has already adopted 'netbook' as a generic term for a category of notebook computers that are small, inexpensive and contain less processing power, making them optimal for connecting to the internet (or 'net')."

It goes on: "Netbooks are simply extensions of the notebook category... Psion's allegations [that netbooks aren't generic] must therefore fail."

Intel also accuses Psion of making "false" statement to the US Patents and Trademark Office. Specifically, it claims Psion told the USPTO on 17 November 2006 that it was "using the Netbook trademark 'in commerce or in connection with all goods' listed" in its original trademark registration "and that Psion 'has used the above-identified trademark [Netbook] in commerce for five consecutive years after the date of registration'.

"Upon information and belief, such statements were false as of 17 November 2006."

Untrue? Yes, Intel maintains, because Psion discontinued its last Netbook, the Netbook Pro, in 2003, so it had not being using the trademark for five consecutive years up to late 2006 as claimed.

In addition to badgering US websites who use the word 'netbook' generically, the complaint states, Psion has also demanded Intel stop using with word thus.

The complaint quotes a letter sent by Psion lawyers to the chip giant accusing it "aided, abetted and otherwise induced manufacturers and retailers [to] use the term 'netbook'".

Psion said that 30 million Google page hits found by entering the search term 'netbook' was proof the the word isn't 'generic'.

In response, Intel said Psion had not managed to show one single instance out of that 30 million where anyone had confused today's netbooks with Psion's defunct ones. ®

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