Intel sues Psion over 'netbook' trademark
Chip giant accuses PDA pioneer of dirty tricks
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. ®
Who calls kleenex "facial tissue"? Manufacturers. Here, everything's "coke", cola or not. But does Coca Cola, inc. get to keep its trademark? You betcha. Granted, Psion discontinued its Netbook line, but not that long ago. Since you can't prosecute the general public, you have to wait for a maker to claim the trademark before you can protect it legally(otherwise you're limited to PR campaigns). If they can prove Intel pushed "netbook", then their case is already won. Even if they can't, however, they stand a decent chance, considering how recently netbook's become the common term. They should definitely be prepared to launch a Netbook-branded product soonest, however.
Results for google search on 'netbook' = 36.1 million
Results for google search on 'psion netbook' = 256,000
So over 35.8m results for the term do not mention Psion. That looks pretty generic to me...
Psion should win this
Here is why Psion should win this.
The Netbook Pro was released in 2003. The best year of sales for that device (multi million dollars in both the EU and US) was in 2006. So whatever the case, 2006 it was alive and well and my view has shifted on this topic just due to that fact alone.
Psion still sell the Netbook Pro device in 2009, even though the website says discontinued according to the statement on their website.
The reason that Netbook is now becoming "generic" is because Intel introduced the term and pushed it hard in March 2008 onwards. Look at the documents Intel filed to the courts... the talk about how media used it but what they fail to point out is that all of these references follow on from their own annoucement that they were dubbing these new devices "netbooks" (Paul Bergaving - March 3rd 2008). So Intel caused the netbook trademark to get diluted.
I agree with people saying that Psion should have acted sooner but there could be many reasons for that.
So if Psion can defend these points then the cases will be dismissed.
Heres the evidence to back my points:
Psion - sales - sold in 2006 and even 2009!:
Intel annoucement of new "category":
Intel court docs - media references missing their own announcement in early March ;-):
I just can't see how this can go any other way really. Its bad a corporation the size of intel or can push a small company like Psion around and assert their rights to a registered trademark! Its totally wrong and I hope Psion win out this case.
My guess is Psion is readying a new Netbook device to compete and maybe aligned with amd or something.
Psion (Potter Scientific Instruments) has been around since 1980
Joan Vinge published Psion in 1982.
End of story there....
Re: Infringement @Bassey (and others)
No, as I stated in a previous article's comment, one of the duties of a Trademark holder is to defend the trademark AS SOON AS A BREACH IS BROUGHT TO THEIR ATTENTION. In some jurisdiction, it gets worse - you have to prosecute breaches in the order in which you became aware of them. Joy.
Point being, had Psion raised this broo-ha-ha 18 months ago when the term "netbook" first started being bandied about by the media and "netbook"-makers, I would have sided with Psion. The fact they waited 18 months (what, nobody in that company reads the industry news?) before raising a fuss - waited until "netbook" became entrenched in the public psyche, in fact - means that I see this as nothing more than a publicity stunt at best, or patent-troll-like behaviour at worst.
Bottom line, Psion missed the Trademark boat by about 16 months - assuming 2 months to get their Legal Dept into gear.