Effort Underway To Save The Netbook Name

from the good-for-them dept

You may recall that Psion is waging an uphill battle to try to reclaim the term “Netbook.” It is true that Psion had a product called a “netBook” (note the capitalization) which was marginally popular in Europe nearly a decade ago. But, it went away. It’s also true that Psion still holds a trademark on the term — though, you’d be hard pressed to show how they’re using it in commerce, considering they stopped selling netBooks years ago. The current popularity of the term has to do with a new category of devices, and has absolutely nothing to do with building on the work of Psion. But that hasn’t stopped the company from aggressively asserting its right to the name, demanding manufacturers and others stop referring to what is commonly known as netbooks as netbooks, and even getting Google to ban the use of the word “netbook” in ads.

It looks like some are fed up with this, and have begun a campaign to Save the Netbooks, noting that the name has reached a point that it’s generic, and that the success of the term has nothing to do with Psion, but is entirely separate from Psion. The group points to a legal analysis of why Psion probably has no right to the term, and wants to drum up more support to get Psion to stop its misuse of trademark law. No one buying a “netbook” today is confused and thinking they’re buying an old Psion product. It’s about time that Psion back down and give up the term. After all… they already gave up the term a while ago. Trying to reclaim it now is simply trying to grab the value that was built by others.

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Companies: psion

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Comments on “Effort Underway To Save The Netbook Name”

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lulz says:


Seems eerily reminiscent of how the whole Watchmen fiasco went down.
Fox signed the initial agreement but Warner Bros. spent the money on it… and Fox still makes money out of the deal without putting any effort into the film.

Here, Psion doesn’t use a trademark, then once an unconnected product category with a generic title comes out, they try to say “BuBut we had the name first! We own the rights.”

Hopefully this pattern doesn’t continue.

TheDock22 says:

It's a Trademark

I think it is silly people are automatically against Psion. THEY are the ones that came out with a product first, THEY spent the money on getting a trademark, and THEY are the ones who spent money on the marketing for the name. So they aren’t entitled to any money after having spent who knows how much building up the name that now other are using for free?

I side with Psion. It was their idea and these other companies used they name without their permission. The way these forums go though Trademarks might as well not exist. Excuse me while I go develop the iPhone.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: It's a Trademark

You have absolutely no understanding of how trademark works. The purpose of trademark is not so that companies can own words and phrases. It’s to protect consumers.

If everyone could sell Coke or Pepsi, customers would be ripped off because every so often they’d mistakenly buy an inferior product sold by a different company.

But where is the consumer confusion here? I’ve never even heard of Psion, let alone their version of the netbook. So there is no confusion on my part. Do you know even a single person who bought a netbook thinking they actually bought a Psion product?

And the other aspect of trademark is that the mark cannot be merely descriptive. In other words, an apple seller cannot trademark the word “apple.” Nor could he trademark his apples as “red fruit.”

I personally cannot see now Psion was able to obtain a trademark on the word “netbook.” The term netbook merely describes what the product is, a notebook for getting on the net.

Jim G (profile) says:

Re: It's a Trademark

@ TheDock22 – are you being intentionally obtuse? It is absurd to think that after getting out of the business of producing “netBooks” 10 years ago one should still have rights to the name. If a company is not producing a product then that company is not harmed when someone uses the “trademarked” name. The whole point of a trademark is to stop companies from using a well recognized name to benefit from another company’s success NOT so you can make a grab for money 10 years after discontinuing to use the trademarked name.
Give me a break!

DanC says:

Re: It's a Trademark

So they aren’t entitled to any money after having spent who knows how much building up the name that now other are using for free?

As mentioned, the term’s popularity has very little (nothining) to do with anything Psion has done. And they haven’t actually produced a netBook product in 6 years, so it’s unclear how you can claim they built up the name.

I side with Psion. It was their idea and these other companies used they name without their permission.

They failed to properly defend their trademark before it was genericized. Since they aren’t even making the machines anymore, it’s apparent that all Psion is actually trying to do is cash in on something they had no real part in.

Excuse me while I go develop the iPhone.

You must mean that non-genericized term made by a company that is actively protecting it’s trademarks. Good luck with that.

johnjac (profile) says:

Stop saying 'own' or 'hold'

‘Own’ and ‘hold’ are something you can do with a physical item. No one ‘owns’ a trademark. These terms imply you have some sort of right to them and what happens with them.

They are however ‘responsible’ for a trademark. They are responsible to prevent or correct any consumer confusion only IF there is any. If there is not consumer confusion then there is no action they need to take nor should they.

-Trademarks they are a responsibility not a right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just an observation from a trademark lawyer.

Given its current product offerings, and in the absence of the ability to in good faith claim an intent to use in association with a near-term product, Psion could not at this time even file an application and recieve a trademark registration for the term “Netbook”. Why? Because as Mr. Masnick has rightly pointed out the basic function served by trademark law is to avoid consumer confusion between similar products competing in the relevant market.

This naturally leads to the question “But if they are not selling anything using the mark “Netbook”, then why is it they have a currently subsisting trademark registration? The answer is a simple one. At the time it originally filed an application and received a registration of the mark “Netbook” it was marketing (or about to market) such a product. At the time it filed a few years ago what is known as a Section 8 affidavit that is a prerequisite to keep a trademark in force, it was using the mark in association with the sale of a product.

The “problem” here is that there is no legal requirement that once a registrant stops using a mark after it has filed its Section * affidavit it is not obligated to pass this tidbit of information on the the US Patent and Trademark Office.

So, given this “glitch” what can others who want to use the term “netbook” do? Simple. File a cancellation petition to have the mark “Netbook” be determined as no longer valid and subsisting. This is Trademark 101, so I would expect that such a petition would be filed in short order and the burden put on Psion to show that it is still using the mark in commerce. Based upon what information is publicly available, I am not sanguine that Psion would be able to satisfy its burden of proof and that the registration would likely be cancelled.

RD says:

trademark lawyer

Thank you! FINALLY someone from that side of the fence who not only knows what they are talking about but offers real advice and solutions without blindly attacking those who take issue with the law in question. If more people in the industry and legal profession “got it” like this gentleman, real progress and innovation might occur, instead of the protectionist and “dont compete, litigate!” mentality that so much pervades the creative works of today.

Anonymous Coward says:

This reminds me of the time maybe a decade ago that Xerox made an effort – even going so far as palcing full page ads in newspapers – to attempt to “reclaim” their name. Their “awareness” campaign didn’t really work. Xerox has simply become synonymous with photcopying, just as Jello has with gelatin, Kleenex with facial tissue and so on. If it didn’t work for Xerox it almost certainly isn’t going to work for this company.

But perhaps that is not their real intent. As has been noted before, a smart person/company might use a reverse “Striesand Effect” to get themselves some free press. Perhaps this company has some plans to get back into business and is using this to get their name back out there.

Bill Smith says:

This is getting very silly. I don’t know why Psion is trying to protect a TM for a another failed product. Psion failed with the netbook, they did not understand the product or corresponding market place.

The further chose not to reinvest in the product. The Board of Psion chose not to reinvest in the product.

We should ask Psion what the difference is between the Lemelson suit and what they are pretending to do?

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Psion and netbook

Note that most of us would never have heard of Psion if this hadn’t happened, and most of us will forget why we know the name, but remember the name, in the future.
This might be smart marketing; though if they actually try to enforce the “rights” (what Michael implied is right, failure to use makes the right voidable) they are dumb!

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