Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Feb 2009 16:41 UTC
Legal I recently joked that we might want to rename OSNews to CourtNews, and with each passing day that silly joke seems to become less silly. This week, it became clear that Psion Teklogix, the company behind various small computing devices back in the '90s, has started an all-out legal offensive to prohibit other companies from using the term "netbook".
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Adepressing turn of events...
by samw on Fri 20th Feb 2009 18:06 UTC
samw
Member since:
2008-12-12

I don't want to launch into an all out anti-capitalist rant, but this is really getting quite ridiculous. You know exactly what I would have said in that rant, so lets just take it as read.

I did a quick search and over the last 7 days, 6 articles containing the word 'court' show up. I make it (at a quick count) 32 articles in total in the past week (fri-fri inclusive. This means 18.75% of the news on OSNews last week was not in fact about 'OS's, meerly corporate morons sueing eachother for the use of the word 'said'.

That said, what is there we can really do about this? I mean, it's right that OSNews should keep us up to date on this, because sadly; this is the state of the world. But I think I have the majority of the OSNews readership behind me say 'We didn't come here to read about courts!'

Half-joke, half suggestion: There appears to be plenty of space for another tab named 'Court' next to Page 2 and front page.


Sam of
inthebinaryrefinery.co.uk

Edited 2009-02-20 18:06 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Didn't Intel come up with this?
by gfacer on Fri 20th Feb 2009 18:10 UTC
gfacer
Member since:
2005-11-10

Wasn't the name coined, this time around, by Intel.

If so, their legal team should throw there weight around a little.

Reply Score: 1

savethenetbooks Member since:
2009-02-20

This issue (among others) is treated on our blog: http://blog.savethenetbooks.com/2009/02/conspiracy-theories-about-n... .

Save the Netbooks

Reply Score: 1

RE: Didn't Intel come up with this?
by memson on Fri 20th Feb 2009 22:31 UTC in reply to "Didn't Intel come up with this?"
memson Member since:
2006-01-01

Wasn't the name coined, this time around, by Intel.

If so, their legal team should throw there weight around a little.


No. You can't coin a term that already existed. The act of coining it implies you were the originator. Intel is just another big bully not doing market research properly. They obviously didn't do any checks for prior usage.

Reply Score: 3

kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

oh, come on. People will continue to call them NetBooks whether Psion like it not. It'll become yet another brand turned into a generic name - just as people now refer to MP3 players as iPods, vacuum cleaners as hoovers etc. Its hardly a new thing.

If I was Psion I would be happy that people now finally got the name out there - heck, why not do a campaign along the lines of 'the original Netbook company' or something to that effect.

I swear these companies, when they're given lemons, instead of making lemonade they turn around and sue the person stating they wanted oranges instead.

Reply Score: 6

Havin_it Member since:
2006-03-10

... And then Monsanto sue them, because they own the IP on the DNA of the orange (I wish this were an entirely fictitious riposte, but it ain't)

The US seems the worst example at the moment, but the whole planet really needs to take a long hard look at how it legislates around "intellectual property". Until that happens, a bunch of carpetbaggers are going to be able to continue getting fat off something their employees created, invented (or even just thought of, wrt patents) decades ago. Sick and sad.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by vivainio
by vivainio on Fri 20th Feb 2009 18:48 UTC
vivainio
Member since:
2008-12-26

From TFA: "This plan could raise prices, cause confusion and ultimately limit consumer choice."

If a company's business is cramped by having to do a search-and-replace through their marketing material, it deserves to suffer a little bit.

Everyone calls them "minilaptops" here, and it certainly makes more sense than "netbook". Obviously Psion is fishing for an opportunity to profit a little bit here, but wouldn't it be classy to say "ok, it was a crappy name anyway" and move on?

Reply Score: 2

ugg
by poundsmack on Fri 20th Feb 2009 19:09 UTC
poundsmack
Member since:
2005-07-13

I don't see what the big deal is. what is a "NetBook" anyways? all computer names make sense "desk top" ok i am guessing that goes on the top of my desk, OMG it worked. next, "laptop" holy crap! i can put this thing on my lap! now, "netbook" ...sooo... umm... what?

exactly, it doesn't mean anything. if you go off the intuative side it sounds like something that would run a net OS or be a thin client like laptop.

why not call it a "Nanobook" or "MLT" (Micro Laptop) Or (if HP didn't already own the rights to the name) a "PalmTop"

all of those are intuative (and no VIA couldn't sue over the use of Nano in the name since its a system and not a porcessor). So why did we pick netbook? and why are we so ready to fight for it? (aside frmo the fact that it has already become the name associated. give it 2 months and you could reasosiate the product with another name on a mass scale, i have seen it done).

Reply Score: 3

Laughable
by foldingstock on Fri 20th Feb 2009 20:46 UTC
foldingstock
Member since:
2008-10-30

Someone used the term "NetBook," run the for hills. Hah.

I don't see how this will hold up. It can be likened to suing someone for using the term "Laptop." This is laughable, at best.

Reply Score: 1

Good riddance
by cb_osn on Fri 20th Feb 2009 21:22 UTC
cb_osn
Member since:
2006-02-26

The term "netbook" is a misnomer anyway. These devices don't provide any connectivity beyond that of a typical laptop. If they came with built-in WiMAX or 3g capabilities, I could understand fighting for the name, but as it is, these are just inexpensive subnotebooks and we really do need a more suitable term to identify them.

Edit: Just wanted to add that, based on what I've read, it seems that Psion will probably be on the losing side of this battle. I agree with that legally, but I still think that the netbook term should be reserved for future devices that actually provide access to the internet.

Edited 2009-02-20 21:34 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Good luck with that
by bandido55 on Fri 20th Feb 2009 21:49 UTC
bandido55
Member since:
2006-10-02

Psion is entitled to the name NetBook because they were the first to use and register as a "brand name" for one of their products. However, there is plenty of evidence and record to show that the term has been bastardized and that is of common use. No one can use the term NetBook but anyone can use the term "netbook" as a generic term. Examples of words that have been bastardized before and that courts have accepted as generic terms are "kleenex", xeroxing, "fedexing", "kotex" and many others. what is important is that the spelling of the bastardized name be different. So, NetBook is the legal trademark that belongs to Psion but "netbook" is the generic term.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Good luck with that
by poundsmack on Fri 20th Feb 2009 22:15 UTC in reply to "Good luck with that"
poundsmack Member since:
2005-07-13

I hate to tell you this but under US copyright law if its in caps or lower case it doesn't matter. if its the same word bUt YoU Do StUf LiKe ThIs it doesn't make it a different word.

you are right that if you misspell it it makes it differend. if you called it a nettbook then yes go nutz, but even then there are the "close enough" clauses, but it is harder to make a case for those and they tend to drag on for a longggg time. in this economy it wouldnt be worth persuing.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Good luck with that
by bandido55 on Sat 21st Feb 2009 15:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Good luck with that"
bandido55 Member since:
2006-10-02

You are wrong. This is not a case of copyright violation. This case is about TRADEMARK violation. My point is that you can trademark almost anything as long as the name is unique or follow a unique convention. Psion trademarked NetBook (with capital N and capital B). No one can use that name following their spelling or punctuation convention, but since later "netbook" became a generic term just like xeroxing or fedexing became generic terms and are legal to use. Other examples of names that are trademarked: "Apple Inc", yet anyone can use the world apple as long as the "Inc" is not part of it. Macintosh is another example whereas the generic name for that kind of apple is macintosh and perctly legal to use.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Good luck with that
by Moochman on Tue 24th Feb 2009 07:39 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Good luck with that"
Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

Psion trademarked NetBook (with capital N and capital B).


Actually, they trademarked "netBook" with a lower-case n and a capital B.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Good luck with that
by memson on Fri 20th Feb 2009 22:26 UTC in reply to "Good luck with that"
memson Member since:
2006-01-01

Examples of words that have been bastardized before and that courts have accepted as generic terms are "kleenex", xeroxing, "fedexing", "kotex" .


Right, so none of those terms are used in the UK. We'd use tissue, photocopy, probably no generic term... maybe courriering, what is a Kotex?

As for Psion, as a fine British originated company, the term Netbook was relatively well known over here. As soon as I heard it I thought, uh oh!

Psion should win. They own the term, both by original usage and by copyright. I think you have to put in to perspective that a small company (as they aren't large) takes time to raise the capital to go after something like this on the scale they need to. I think they're within their rights to win, and I can't wait to see the fallout :-))

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Good luck with that
by abraxas on Sat 21st Feb 2009 14:12 UTC in reply to "RE: Good luck with that"
abraxas Member since:
2005-07-07

what is a Kotex?


You must not have a girlfriend.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Good luck with that
by abraxas on Sat 21st Feb 2009 16:05 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Good luck with that"
abraxas Member since:
2005-07-07

It was joke. I swear some people have no sense of humor.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Good luck with that
by memson on Sat 21st Feb 2009 19:06 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Good luck with that"
memson Member since:
2006-01-01

Well, no I have a wife. Feminine hygiene product? Because, remember, a brand doesn't necessarily get released worldwide.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Good luck with that
by abraxas on Sun 22nd Feb 2009 14:54 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Good luck with that"
abraxas Member since:
2005-07-07

It was a joke. I guess geek/lack-of-a-girlfriend jokes don't play as well on OSNews as they do on Slashdot. I meant no offense. To be honest though I've never heard "Kotex" used generically before but I see that box sitting out in the bathroom once a month!

Edited 2009-02-22 14:55 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Good luck with that
by Delgarde on Sat 21st Feb 2009 01:01 UTC in reply to "Good luck with that"
Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

However, there is plenty of evidence and record to show that the term has been bastardized and that is of common use.


Agreed - the term 'netbook' is in pretty widespread use these days, by people who in many cases won't have heard of Psion, much less Psion's previous use of the term. *Far* too late to be trying to protect a trademark now...

Reply Score: 1

RE: Good luck with that
by Havin_it on Sun 22nd Feb 2009 13:25 UTC in reply to "Good luck with that"
Havin_it Member since:
2006-03-10

Your list of examples leads to only one conclusion: companies should totally avoid coming up with brand-names with an 'x' in them ;)

Reply Score: 3

Save the Netbooks?
by KrustyVader on Fri 20th Feb 2009 22:23 UTC
KrustyVader
Member since:
2006-10-28

Why is there an EeePC in the title of the page?
Asus didn't call ther machine subnotebook?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Save the Netbooks?
by savethenetbooks on Sat 21st Feb 2009 15:31 UTC in reply to "Save the Netbooks?"
savethenetbooks Member since:
2009-02-20

To be honest for no other reason than it was the cleanest "netbook" photo on commons we could find (all our content is under a free license, including the logo).

And yes, Asus *do* use the term "netbook" in their marketing:

http://www.asus.com/news_show.aspx?id=12994

StN

Reply Score: 0

Cyber bullying
by memson on Fri 20th Feb 2009 23:25 UTC
memson
Member since:
2006-01-01

You know what is really sad... the fact that the moron running the following site : http://www.savethenetbooks.com/ is also bullying people and twisting the facts on Wikipedia's Netbook articles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:SamJohnston

http://www.blogger.com/profile/13816529874906993705

I call bullshit.

Reply Score: 1

v RE: Cyber bullying
by savethenetbooks on Sat 21st Feb 2009 01:54 UTC in reply to "Cyber bullying"
RE[2]: Cyber bullying
by memson on Sat 21st Feb 2009 02:17 UTC in reply to "RE: Cyber bullying"
memson Member since:
2006-01-01

Oh FFS Matt get over it/yourself. Cyber bullying? Seriously. You've already made your affection for Psion abundantly clear.

And what exactly do you call bullshit on anyway?

StN


What do you call bullying anyone who attempts to mention Psion on the Wikipedia article Sam?

Yeah, I like Psion... originally good British company. I have known of Netbook as a specific Psion product since around when it was launched and I think they have a good case.

I could go and change the Wikipedia article, but I'd rather someone with no attachment to the other camp has a hand in it. I call bullshit on you, because you are perverting the Wikipedia article and making a mockery of the Wikipedia neutral stance.

You should get over YOURself because, no matter what happens in the US courts, Psion still deserves to get a mention at the top of that article, not just a vague link to another article worded in such a way as to imply Psion have no real relevance.

Remember, other manufacturers have lost the trademark battle already - MSI is no longer allowed to call their products "netbook".. My Wind has no mention of the word Netbook on it nor on the documentation.

Edited 2009-02-21 02:19 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Cyber bullying
by MamiyaOtaru on Sat 21st Feb 2009 07:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Cyber bullying"
MamiyaOtaru Member since:
2005-11-11

haha there is a wikipedia article for savethenetbooks now, written by none other than Sam.

The discussion page has this gem: "Created. A quick comment about WP:COI, the article was created by the author of the site but is believed to be balanced nonetheless and does not reference them." -also by Sam

D:

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Cyber bullying
by memson on Sat 21st Feb 2009 09:28 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Cyber bullying"
memson Member since:
2006-01-01

Exactly.

Reply Score: 3

v RE[4]: Cyber bullying
by savethenetbooks on Sat 21st Feb 2009 14:36 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Cyber bullying"
RE[3]: Cyber bullying
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 21st Feb 2009 09:59 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Cyber bullying"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

I call bullshit on you, because you are perverting the Wikipedia article and making a mockery of the Wikipedia neutral stance.


Wikipedia? Neutral?

Wait, what, you're serious?

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Cyber bullying
by WereCatf on Sat 21st Feb 2009 11:07 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Cyber bullying"
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Wikipedia? Neutral?

Wait, what, you're serious?


You know what he means: the purpose of Wikipedia is to provide neutral comments and facts, and a lot of Wikipedia content actually is that. Not all of it, there's always some people who just can't resist the urge to try to tilt things in the favor of his camp, but still there's a load of stuff there with a neutral stance on things.

Reply Score: 3

v RE[5]: Cyber bullying
by savethenetbooks on Sat 21st Feb 2009 15:01 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Cyber bullying"
RE[6]: Cyber bullying
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 21st Feb 2009 15:03 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Cyber bullying"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Now now children, can you please take this silly feud to email or PM or something? I kindly ask only once.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Cyber bullying
by mabhatter on Sat 21st Feb 2009 12:36 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Cyber bullying"
mabhatter Member since:
2005-07-17

Very few of the manufactures NAMED their product "netbooks" because it hadn't really dawned on them. Most of the use is on websites or catalog pages looking for something to summarize the category of devices. Psion's product was forgotten long ago. Sure, it might be sold in one part of Southeast Asia, but that's not the American market, or the market that includes people starting websites about the devices. As soon as the devices started appearing they should have been advertising their product too... but they don't have one. It's the consensus of media that choose to refer to devices as "netbooks" not any one manufacture trying to hijack the term. The term was "rediscovered" as an "interNET noteBOOK" and bounced around until the shadow people pushed the words across the screen Net... Book... netbook!

This is just like when we when through the "Podcasting" debacle.. only with less teeth. In the case of Podcasts Apple had a good leg to stand on, but let it go for 2-3 years online. They only started sending legal out when too many companies use "podcasting" on their gear and they wanted to have iTunes be the only place for "podcasts". (remember, Apple didn't invent the term and didn't sue anybody until they wanted the name to only by on their iTunes store.) Now they're named "netcasts" (but you have to pay Leo Laporte and John C. Dvorak/blog for that one, ha, ha) Legally Apple had to call the dogs off because they came close to losing the cases, but scared enough people into settling, now people don't use it too widely because Apple's lawyers growl at them, but casual use is basically out-of-the-bag.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Cyber bullying
by B. Janssen on Sat 21st Feb 2009 15:33 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Cyber bullying"
B. Janssen Member since:
2006-10-11

Very few of the manufactures NAMED their product "netbooks" because it hadn't really dawned on them. Most of the use is on websites or catalog pages looking for something to summarize the category of devices.


I agree, Psion cannot forbid the colloquial use of a term. You and me, we can continue to use the term in any way we like. Newssites and catalogies may do so, too, as long as they are not referencing a specific product. Psion, however, can forbid that other companies in the same segment use the term -- in fact they have to, or loose the rights.

Psion's product was forgotten long ago. Sure, it might be sold in one part of Southeast Asia, but that's not the American market, or the market that includes people starting websites about the devices. As soon as the devices started appearing they should have been advertising their product too... but they don't have one.


The WIPO might disagree with this position, Madrid process and all... ;)

Reply Score: 3

it will be a generic term anyway
by unclefester on Sat 21st Feb 2009 11:33 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

PC, Windsurfer, Walkman, Rollerblades, Hoover (vacuum cleaners) and Tannoy (loudspeakers) are all trademarks that became totally generic terms.

Reply Score: 2

Chevy Camaro.
by andydread on Sat 21st Feb 2009 12:05 UTC
andydread
Member since:
2009-02-02

I am torn here. If I go with my gut (emotions) I would say that Psion is being a bit silly here. However I just thought of something. GM stopped making the Chevy Camaro for a while. Does that mean that its OK for Nissan and Toyota and other car manufacturers to come up with a new vehicle segment and call it Camaro? I am not sure GM will be too amused at that. And given that Psion is not a troll they had an actual product trademarked Netbook. I think I will have to reluctantly be on the side of Psion in this one. And I think the same would apply if printer manufacturers were to call a new type of printer DeskJet printers or whatever HP wouldn't be smiling either.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Chevy Camaro.
by JonathanBThompson on Mon 23rd Feb 2009 06:05 UTC in reply to "Chevy Camaro."
JonathanBThompson Member since:
2006-05-26

Perhaps one of the things that helps GM protect the Camaro trademark (presumably, it has one, I've not verified) is that they still license and/or manufacture and have for sale replacement parts specifically for the Camaro. What a lot of people are ignoring (including Dell) is that Psion is doing the same thing: by the legal definition of "using in commerce" they have a very valid claim on that part of the requirements, despite what Dell would want the public to believe.

Where Psion may have some real issues is with how long they've waited to make such a visible stink, if the timeline that I've read/heard is correct, but that's left up to the authorities to decide about that delay, and then there's the potential issue that it has been Xeroxed...

Reply Score: 2

Intel marketing dep source code...
by mmu_man on Sat 21st Feb 2009 20:32 UTC
mmu_man
Member since:
2006-09-30

namespace int<sub>e</sub>l::Marketing {

class Term : public Noun {
Term(const char *name) {
// sanity check
// XXX: disabled for cost reason
// if (Trademarks::CaseInsensitiveFind(name))
// throw ExistingTrademarkException;
// XXX: who cares?
// if (BadWords::CaseInsensitiveFind(name))
// throw ColloquialException;
};
};

};

using namespace int<sub>e</sub>l::Marketing;

new Term("netbook");

Reply Score: 3

Havin_it Member since:
2006-03-10

10 PRINT POO BUM WILLY
20 GOTO 10
RUN

Reply Score: 4

Comment by adkilla
by adkilla on Sun 22nd Feb 2009 17:03 UTC
adkilla
Member since:
2005-07-07

Hey, if Microsoft could get away with a Windows trademark why can't they?

Remember wxWindows?

-Ad

Reply Score: 1

Sigh - Psion probably doesn't have a case
by rajan r on Mon 23rd Feb 2009 16:50 UTC
rajan r
Member since:
2005-07-27

It is useful to remember the purpose of trademarks - to differentiate a business from competitors.

1) Does Psion have active rights to the trademark? The trademark usually lapse after several years of disuse. If Dell comes out with Dell Lisa, unless Apple's lawyers are high or plan on gaming the judiciary system, Dell would get away from it.

2) Is the trademark unique? It isn't anyone - netbook no longer in common parlance refer to Psion's product, but rather to a class of subnotebooks.

3) Is there a violation of trademark rights? Disregarding #1, a key standard in trademark cases is whether there was potential for confusion. If I came out with a company called Mapple with a similar logo to Apple, that's a violation because there is potential to confuse consumers. Psion's NetBook brand these days isn't well known, and instead when such sites and manufacturers advertise netbooks, they do not intend or inadvertably cause confusion.

Reply Score: 2