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Psion Accuses Intel of Cybersquatting 116

Posted by kdawson
from the yer-mother-wears-combat-boots dept.
Save the Netbooks writes "We discussed Psion sending C&Ds late last year over international trademarks held on the term 'netbook' and Dell accusing Psion of fraud last week. Since then Intel has joined in by suing Psion in federal court. On Friday Psion counter-sued Intel (court filing, PDF). SaveTheNetbooks.com has an analysis here. Psion has demanded a jury trial, profits, treble damages, destruction of material bearing the mark 'netbook' and the netbook.com domain (among other things), claiming that they are still actively selling netbooks despite also revealing sales figures showing a minuscule market share. It seems that declaring victory may have been a little premature as it will be months before the dispute plays out in court."
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Psion Accuses Intel of Cybersquatting

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  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:28AM (#27039645)
    Hey, if you can't make it with the quality of your product, just make sure you are in the news a lot.
    • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:38AM (#27039755) Homepage
      Psion actually did have high-quality handhelds back before they became so commonplace. Unlike a lot of their competitors, they actually included a compiler right on their devices so you could program or modify existing programs. Of course, this is back in the '90s, before even the Newton...
      • by hey! (33014) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:03AM (#27040021) Homepage Journal

        I actually think Psion might have a case here. They registered the "netBook" trademark years ago, and have been selling "netBook" branded subnotebooks continually over the last decade.

        At this point, I think "Netbook" has become generic, but not through a failure of Psion to protect its trademark. Intel, while not selling a device of its own, improperly appropriated Psion's trademark for its own commercial ends (selling Atom processors to subnotebook manufacturers among others). If Sun decided that "J2EE Server" wasn't going to win any adopters, and decided to call them "Websphere servers", that would be clearly be improper, even though they weren't using to refer specifically to their implementation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I think this is an example of how a large corporation can away with almost anything they want.

          Intel's use of "netbook" is just as wrong as if I started selling tissues called "kleenex". It's stealing someone else's name. But right & wrong doesn't matter. What matters is who has the deeper pockets, so Intel will ignore the cease-and-desist letters and just drag this in court until Psion goes bankrupt. It's a lot like what Microsoft did throughout the 90s.

          • by 2short (466733)

            But Intel didn't steal their name. They didn't start saying "netbook" to create confusion and trade on the excellent reputation of the famous Psion netbook. Rather they, or maybe some gadget blogger, noticed that this new class of machines is useful, despite their limited specs, thanks to their access to the network, and "netbook" is kind of catchy. They weren't trying to create an artificial association with the Psion Netbooks - which are kind of like the modern ones except even slower and with out the
            • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday March 02, 2009 @12:56PM (#27041427)
              If Psion had trademarked the name, and they were still using it (apparently they WERE still selling netbooks, even if only a few), then they probably have rights to the name. It doesn't matter than Intel is a much larger company. If Psion had a trademark on the name, and Intel did not check to see if the name was already trademarked, then they DID steal the name.

              Whether Psion's product "caught on" in the market is irrelevant, as long as they were still selling them. You can't exactly let Intel void their trademark just because Intel is a bigger company! That's why we have trademarks in the first place.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by 2short (466733)

                Legally, you are probably right. But in judging Intel ethically, it matters to me whether they started saying "netbook" with the intention of stealing the name and trading on the reputation of Psions product. They clearly did not.

                The real clincher (in the court of my opinion) would be whether it was even Intel that started calling them that. This is not clear to me. Certainly I first became aware of "netbook" as a generic descriptor of the class of machines, with no particular tie to Intel.

                It's a good n
                • >>>Legally, you are probably right. But in judging Intel ethically

                  This is the law. Ethics matter in the Congress building, but not in the courtroom which is just there to enforce the letter of the law. If a law is Unethical, then change the law at the Congressional level.

                  >>>it matters to me whether they started saying "netbook" with the intention of stealing the name and trading on the reputation of Psions product. They clearly did not.

                  Intel received letters to cease-and-desist.
                  Intel ign

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by 2short (466733)
                    "This is the law."

                    No, this is slashdot. As I have tried to make clear, I am more interested in whether I personally think Intel are being evil bad guys here than in the details of the law involved. Call me arrogant if you like, but the law does not determine my opinion.
                    • >>>the law does not determine my opinion.

                      Which is why you would make a lousy judge. You'd probably demand I give-away my $300,000 savings to help my neighbor pay his mortgage because "in my opinion it's the ethical thing to do". Fortunately we run this country by law (a Republic) not your "personal feelings". My money is my property. Same with Psion:

                      Psion has property rights to the name "Netbook". Psion told Intel to stop using the name. Intel arrogantly ignored the letter and continued

                    • Your neighbor, hell no, give *me* that money.
                      That's the only ethical thing to do.

                      Also I'm a middle-eastern princess in need of saving and your bank account details.

                    • by 2short (466733)
                      "Which is why you would make a lousy judge. "

                      Really? Well it's a good thing some of us can tell the difference between a Slashdot poster and a judge. Maybe you should look into it. I understand you are very sure you are completely right about the law in this case. You're so excited to show everyone this, you can't be bothered to identify people who care.

                      Seriously, what part of "I am not interested in the details of the law involved" do you translate as "I think I would make a good Judge in this case."?

                      I
                • I don't see how there is any separate "ethical" issue anyway. Trademarks exist for a reason. No matter who started using it generically, if Psion had a valid trademark on the name, and Intel did not check first to see the name was trademarked before they started using it, then Intel is in the wrong. It is easy enough to check... apparently they just didn't bother.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              >>>But Intel didn't steal their name.... and "netbook" is kind of catchy.

              That's fine. They mistakenly used a trademarked name. No problem. HOWEVER now that they've been informed that the name is trademarked, via a cease-and-desist letter, they are obligated to stop. Since Intel is refusing to stop, they are in violation of the law, and can be sued for damages.

              >>>Psion made a product that didn't catch on; that doesn't get them the right to keep the name for all eternity

              Not eternity, no,

        • by kimvette (919543) on Monday March 02, 2009 @12:21PM (#27041007) Homepage Journal

          They may have registered "netBook" years ago but the only "netBook" product they list is in their discontinued product page. One of the requirements for maintaining a trademark is to actively use it.

          Their focus seems to be vehicle-mounted computers, appropriate for police and delivery vehicles, and their handheld units are appropriate for managing stores (inventory control) and delivery personnel, not the target market for netbooks.

          They abandoned it, and let it fall into common use, becoming a genericized trademark. I would buy a "netbook" like an Aspire One or eee PC, but I would not buy a "NETBOOK PRO" from Psion even if it were to be brought back into production.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by hattig (47930)

            When the entire article is about how they didn't abandon it, and indeed sold large numbers through 2006 and still sell remaining stock and supplies, how can you claim that they abandoned it?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            >>>One of the requirements for maintaining a trademark is to actively use it.

            Bzzz. One of the requirements is to actively ENFORCE it, by protecting it from infringement. That is what Psion did when they sent out cease-and-desist to Intel. Intel is obligated to acknowledge the letter and comply with its demands, otherwise Intel is violating trademark law.

            Intel could have easily said, "Ooops sorry," and that would have been the end. But instead it's clear Intel intends to steal somebody's else's

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Klintus Fang (988910)

              This is true. Intel and the other companies currently using the term netbook to define this class of devices could have said "Ooops sorry" and that would have been the end of it.

              If Psion had made their move to protect the trademark back when the Intel first started encouraging the use of this term in the media then that surely is what would have happened. But psion, in their own statements, said they waited until the latter quarters of 2008 after it was clear to them that the use of the term netbook for

              • The term of "waiting" isn't long enough to cause Psion to lose their rights. Back when the world wide web was born, many many fansites arose around the TV show Star Trek. Paramount left them slide for 5 years, and then finally they decided they'd had enough and issued cease-and-desist letters in 1999. Some of the fans countersued claiming Paramount has left the rights to "Star Trek" and the logo to slide into public domain, but the courts disagreed, saying that not enough time had elapsed and that Param

                • you may be right. though the difference here is that the Star Trek trademark was and is still in active use by Paramount. All products using the netbook trademark on the other hand were discontinued it seems before any one else started using the term.

                  but we'll have to see.

                  • >>>All products using the netbook trademark on the other hand were discontinued

                    No. Netbooks are still being sold by Psion. And even when Star Trek was "discontinued" during the years 1969 to 1973 and 1975 to 1979, Paramount still held onto the trademark. Lack of product doesn't mean you lose your trademark.

          • by hey! (33014)

            I'm not sure you've got that right.

            To abandon a trademark, it isn't enough to stop using it. You've got to stop using it with the intent of never using it again. If they discontinued the product with an press release saying, "this is the last 'netbook' branded product we'll ever sell," then they'd have abandoned the trademark at that instant. However nobody does that sort of thing.

            On the other hand, you just can't be sly about whether you want to use a trademark, hoping to catch somebody in an indiscret

            • IMO the smart move for intel would be to settle, buy the trademark and then use it to bully the chineese vendors who are bringing out non intel based netbooks ;).

        • According to an earlier article, Intel claimed that Psion wasn't selling netbooks anymore. But if they actually still were -- even only a few -- then by law they would probably retain rights to the name. Market share has no bearing on whether you can keep a name or not... only whether you are actively using the name.
        • Trademarks have to be defended. Psion should have raised an issue with people using the term "netbook" in media long ago. By now the value of the trademark has been distilled, and it's extremely doubtful that they can start enforcing it as a trademark after years of use as a common term.

          The term netbook is synonymous with a class of product, just like Kleenex is. How many people actually ask for a "tissue" instead of a "Kleenex"? The term still can't be used to name competing products, but as a descr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by david.given (6740)

        I have a Psion Netbook. It's a stunningly nice machine, with a really good keyboard (I mean, really good; it's got full sized keys and is extremely comfortable to type on), a decent touch-sensitive colour screen, PCMCIA, CF and a huge battery life with no moving parts.

        Unfortunately by today's standards it's pretty antiquated. It runs EPOC, which may have been good then but is pretty useless today, and the 32MB of RAM isn't quite good enough to run anything else on (although you can hack Debian onto it, you

        • i might have a pcmcia card that works with your netbook - an old siemens i-gate 11m with the intersil prism chipset (used it with my simpad sl4).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by el_$corpio (319533)

          I also have a Psion Netbook and have been using mine every day for years. What it lacks in connectivity it makes up for in speed, battery life and applications that do what they should and carry no bloat. The Agenda is still the best calendar app I've used. For example, you can create an entry and then add a (Psion) Word document containing information about the entry, including images, etc.

          It turns on instantly. That alone puts it above any of the subnotebooks that are currently calling themselves netb

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Psion actually did have high-quality handhelds back before they became so commonplace. [..] Of course, this is back in the '90s, before even the Newton...

        Indeed, I'm a card-carrying Psion user and have been for well over a decade - the Psion was the alternative I took up when my Nokia 9000 mobile phone/ computer was banned from work. I have sufficient old machines sitting in storage bags that I don't foresee having to re-enter the "handheld" market much before 2015, so I can afford to wait for important fea

    • I wish they'd go back and start doing what they did best [wikipedia.org].
  • by Nursie (632944) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:29AM (#27039659)

    I thought it originated (in its current incarnation, not the Psion one) in the tech press and tech community, not as a marketing term from Intel or Dell.

    Also, are Asus not involved and if not, why not? They kicked this thing off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hozza (1073224)

      I've seen several references in the press that it was Intel that re-invented the netbook term to go with the Atom marchitecture, other manufacturers and the press have just followed their lead.

      I have to say I'm with Psion on this one, their competitors have released a near-identical product and used their brand name, of course they're pissed. Legally speaking the size of their market share has zero relevance.

      • Legally speaking the size of their market share has zero relevance.

        But the fact that Psion aren't American probably does.

      • by drgould (24404)

        I have to say I'm with Psion on this one, their competitors have released a near-identical product and used their brand name, of course they're pissed. Legally speaking the size of their market share has zero relevance.

        Except that Psion appearently stopped selling netbooks 6 years ago, in 2003. Although they appearently renewed their trademark in 2006.

        My understanding is that this problem is common in the food industry. Food companies often produce small quantities of a product to maintain their trademarks

        • by hattig (47930)

          Apart from still selling netbook pros and actively selling tens of thousands in 2006.

          They clearly stopped making them now, which is a great shame. The great Psion products faded away with the Symbian split, and Psion fading away. I would hope that they are working on a next generation ARM-based netbook product running Android, but fear that they're dead as a technological innovator.

          • by drgould (24404)

            Apart from still selling netbook pros and actively selling tens of thousands in 2006.

            Well, Ars [arstechnica.com] suggests Psion's revenue claims are suspect.

            These numbers are somewhat suspect for two reasons. First, Psion claims that peak netBook revenue occurred in 2006, three years after the netBook Pro went off the market and the same year Psion renewed its trademark. How could users buy two million dollars of accessories for only $135,000 worth of netBooks? The timing is off.

            Second, the numbers seem too small. The netBoo

            • by hattig (47930)

              "These numbers are somewhat suspect for two reasons. First, Psion claims that peak netBook revenue occurred in 2006, three years after the netBook Pro went off the market"

              But the NetBook Pro was launched in November 2003. This is a whole new definition of "went off the market". Therefore Ars is wrong or you're quoting an older article.

              Psion's lawyers wouldn't be so stupid as to forge revenue statements to a court. And in addition, forge that 2006 contract to supply NetBook Pros ... really? The court would o

    • Probably because Asus isn't using the term 'netbook' in their advertisement of the Eee. Of course I'm not sure of this, but I haven't seen 'netbook' anywhere on the Asus site.

    • Asus (AFAIK) never officially used the term Netbook, they called it the "Eee".

      I am guessing that this probably happened.

      Psion is a British Company, most likely they woudl have sent a polite letter/email/phone call to Intel at the start of this fiasco, asking if they can avoid using the term.

      When that received no response, came the C&D letters, etc and then finally the lawsuit.

      Taking into account Psions relationship with Symbian, all this legal process after the polite letter, could have taken time. Lawy

  • savethenetbooks.com (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    cool website number :)
  • by ghostis (165022) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:04AM (#27040025) Homepage

    Looks like netbooks may need a new name, for now... I recently did a whois search across all the prefixes and suffixes I could think of for small laptops (mobile-,mini-, -top, -book, etc.: net,com,org) All the .coms, .nets, and most .orgs were taken. Would one of you who has a short catchy one of these domains step forward to offer the name to the community?

    -Ghostis

    • by Ed Avis (5917)

      Why do netbooks need a new name? It's a well-understood and generic term, just like biro or (in some countries) hoover. Let the lawyers deal with the lawyer-crap.

      • by ghostis (165022)

        Because trademark cases can sometimes take *a long time* to resolve. If the effort to clear "netbook" fails in the end, Psion may be able to get major payments from anyone who made money from it before the case was resolved. That may include regular folks, like you and I, who may get Ad Sense income from blogging about "netbooks." IANAL, but, in my humble opinion, quickly working around the situation would make everyone's lives easier.

        OTOH, If Psion just settled with the big guys and then released the na

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by samj (115984) *

          Psion have essentially given an amnesty to bloggers and journalists using the term "netbook" (which may prove reason enough in itself to take the trademark off them since any licensing must include quality assurance). That includes blogs with advertising as explained here [jkontherun.com]:

          "where a blogger uses context sensitive advertising that is completely outside of its control (so it has no knowledge at all whether a 'Netbook' related advert will be placed in its blog site), then we're taking the view that we need to fo

    • Looks like netbooks may need a new name, for now

      It had one for ages: "subnotebook" [wikipedia.org].

  • by hattig (47930) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:09AM (#27040091) Journal

    "Assuming around 15,000,000 netbooks were sold in 2008 at a conservative $200 per unit (and that our calculations are correct) Psion had a "netbook" market share of two thousandths of one percent in 2008 - rather low for a company claiming to hold a monopoly over the mark."

    and absolutely irrelevant, especially as the sales in 2005 and 2006 show massive amounts of sales, and as they were the sole player in that market then, a 100% share. Within the past 5 years. And Intel's abuse of the trademark led to the Psion share of the netbook marking shrinking.

    Psion have this one all wrapped up.

    • by samj (115984) *

      Actually no, the netBook rather than netBook Pro figures are relevant if only because it was on the basis of a netBook flyer that Psion renewed the trademark in 2006 (long after that particular product had been discontinued). This was the basis of Dell & Intel's claims of fraud, which could well undermine the trademark altogether (assuming abandonment and/or genericide don't).

      • Go see a lawyer, who will calmly explain there is no difference between the terms "Netbook" and "netbook pro"

        For example, if Apple were to stop creating their MacBook, and focussed on MacBook pro, but kept their MacBook trademark, you cannot 5 years later create a MacBook, and say "But Apple stopped selling MacBooks"

  • I think the industry should all stop using the Netbook name, immediately. And then take out multiple advertisements to "clear up the confusion," pointing out how much better their fully-functional micro-laptops are.

    Tag line: "Why buy a Netbook(TM) when you can have a Dell?" (with proper attribution for Netbook, naturally).

  • by topham (32406) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:29AM (#27040347) Homepage

    Since Netbook has NO MEANING anyway?

    Psion will lose because they aren't an American company. Not because they don't have a case.

  • netbook.com (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jackspenn (682188)
    The fact that Psion themselves didn't register the netbook.com domain name and instead Intel did years later, suggests Psion itself didn't take the term netbook seriously until others gave it value.
    • From what I understand of your logic, it could be extended thusly:

      jackspenn.com is available, and consequently you don't take yourself seriously and your name is forfeit.

      Correct, or am I missing something? If it is correct the repercussions are scary.
  • Anyone vote for "Webpad"?
    what about "Netpad", "Webbook","Nettop" even "Surfboard" maybe?

    Actually, NetTop should be an internet-add on for your TV :)

  • by jolyonr (560227) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:55AM (#27040703) Homepage

    Keep trimming off the peripherals, CPU, etc, and it will remain small.

  • Of course, having really liked Psion's past designs, I think it would be really cool for Psion to take another crack at the (renewed) market. They have the design chops. They also have a nice non-Intel platform in the Nano. Just a thought.

  • Small == wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday March 02, 2009 @12:01PM (#27040763) Journal

    claiming that they are still actively selling netbooks despite also revealing sales figures showing a minuscule market share.

    So, what the submitter is saying is that because Psion has a small player with "minuscule market share", the big guys should be able to ignore Psion's trademarks.

    More hypocrisy from the /. crowd.

  • They were using the term Netbook to sell a product before the current 'Netbooks' were even conceived, they have been selling and maintaining their Netbooks since then.

    'Netbook' for budget ultraportables was coined and popularised by Intel and their partners. Although a catchy nickname and it captures the nature of the product, it's not a descriptive name in itself.

    Psion have every right to go after Intel who've done all they can to associate their atom and celeron based systems with the term and are now try

  • just Google 'Netbook' and the hits you get will give you a broad range of manufacturers and specs for small notebooks/laptops that can connect to the web/net. It's a generic term now trademark or not. Generic means that it's manufacturer unspecific, I might want to buy a 'hoover', Dyson, Hoover, Electrolux and DirtDevil all spring to mind. I have already made the association to more than one manufacturer of dust suckers; it's a generic term. Even re-sellers have a category for Netbooks.
    • Wouldn't that mean that the trademark on anything is forfeit if another company (or group of companies) is able to use the name more successfully? Breaking trademark laws is only a bad thing if you don't do a good enough job at it?
      • by molesdad (1003858)
        My point was that it is not the manufacturers that created this but the public(media) association of the term 'Netbook' with a small laptop. The fact that the term has now become generic should allow manufacturers to use the term to describe their product in that category. Psion still have their 'netBook' Netbook if it even falls into that category. I think they embrace the good fortune of having a genericized product and market it accordingly i.e. The Original Netbook.
    • It's a generic term now trademark or not.

      So, if I remember correctly, were rollerblades. They're not called that now though.

  • name, add one and become POISON.

    But, if they become PRION, they could be the slurry/sludge/brown POISON to slow Intel down...

  • independently on how you see this trademark stuff: It's gotten really hard over the last year to search for netBook-related articles on the web. So for my personal searching Intel did harm me. I wonder if I'm the only one who is annoyed about that.

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