Intel has filed a request for declaratory judgment against Psion Teklogix to overturn its trademark of the term “Netbook.” The company, created out of the merger of Psion and Teklogix, has held the trademark since 2000 but has not made use of it.
At least not until last month. Then Psion began reaffirming its netbook trademark, as it called it. The company started sending cease and desist letters to journalists, bloggers and vendors, reportedly ordering them to stop using the term by this March. It even managed to get Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to ban the term from AdSense ads.
Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), which has been enjoying good sales of its Inspiron Mini 9 netbook, was one of the targets, and it fought back. Earlier this month it filed a dispute with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to overturn the patent.
This would be the height of irony. Late last year, Dell applied for and received a trademark for the term “cloud computing.” After howls of protest, the USPTO reversed the trademark.
Psion did not return calls seeking comment as of publication.
If Psion loses, it will be for the same reason Dell lost: the term became generic. As Jessica Litman, professor of Law and Information at the University of Michigan told InternetNews.com last December, if a term becomes generic, a trademark becomes subject to cancellation, “because people need to be able to describe the generic product.”
A spokesman for Intel pretty said the same thing to InternetNews.com “Our view is that the term ‘netbook’ is a widely used generic term that describes a class of affordable computing devices, much like the term ‘notebook’ or ‘ultra-mobile PC,'” said Chuck Mulloy of Intel.
He added “In order to continue to use the generic term ‘netbook’ we filed the case. We’re asking for a decision to clarify that the use of ‘netbook’ does not infringe anyone’s rights.”
Intel’s suit claims that Psion did not use the ‘netbook’ trademark for five consecutive years following the date of registration in 2000. Its last branded “netBook” product was in 2003. Because the patent has not been used in five years, Intel argues it should be invalidated.