World, face Palm: PDA brand to RISE FROM THE GRAVE

Chinese mobe maker bags trademarks from HP

Remember Palm? The company that made the PDA a must-have item in the 1990s may be long gone, but it looks like the Palm brand may be due for a resurgence this year.

The eagle-eyed fanatics at webOSNation.com were the first to notice that the palm.com website – and indeed any subdomain of palm.com – now redirects to a site with the URL mynewpalm.com.

The new site contains nothing but the familiar Palm logo along with text that alternates between "Coming Soon" and "Smart Move."

DNS records indicate that the mynewpalm.com domain is owned by Wide Progress Global Limited – a shell company if we've ever heard of one.

Some digging by webOSNation.com forum members turned up this document, which reveals that HP – which bought Palm for $1.2bn in 2010 – has transferred all of its worldwide Palm trademarks to Wide Progress Global, which just happens to be incorporated in the British Virgin Islands at someplace called the "Offshore Incorporations Centre."

More telling is the "Smart Move" phrase, which just happens to be the slogan of Alcatel One Touch, the brand of smartphones marketed by Chinese electronics and appliance outfit TCL.

And sure enough, as the sleuths at webOSNation.com sniffed out, the Nicolas Zibell who signed the trademark transfer document on behalf of Wide Progress Global just happens to have the same name as the senior VP and general manager of Americas for TCL Communication Technology Holdings, who was previously president of Americas and Pacific for Alcatel One Touch.

OK, so Alcatel One Touch owns the Palm brand now, including all of the logos that it used before it was snapped up by HP. But what does that actually get it?

At the time, HP said it bought Palm mainly for webOS, the company's latter-day mobile platform. But when HP's own-branded webOS devices flopped spectacularly, it first open sourced the software, then eventually sold off the relevant trademarks and other intellectual property to LG, which now uses webOS to power the UI for its smart TVs.

That doesn't mean Alcatel One Touch couldn't make webOS smartphones using the open source version of the OS. HP was even said to have launched a stealth subsidiary to work on some kind of webOS devices in 2012, although nothing seems to have ever come of it.

More likely, though, Alcatel just wants to trade on the goodwill of the Palm brand, which is still fondly remembered by many who, much like former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, wish it had never been gobbled by HP to begin with.

We may find out what's really going on soon enough. The annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas next week, and if Alcatel One Touch has any big plans for 2015, that's probably where we'll hear about them. Or, if Alcatel needs a little more time to get its plans together, there's always the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March. ®


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