PTO Rains on Dell’s ‘Cloud Computing’ Trademark

Well, that didn’t last long.

Dell had received near-final approval for its trademark application of the term “cloud computing,” but the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled its “Notice of Allowance” on Tuesday and changed the status to “returned to examination.”

Dell first applied for and got a trademark for the term “cloud computing” in March 2007 when it introduced its Cloud Computing Solution, a set of servers, other hardware, and services.

In the near year-and-a-half since the application, the term “cloud computing” had become generic and widely adopted by the industry at large. Unfortunately for Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), if the public adopts a term for mass, generic use, it’s no longer yours to trademark.

Dell insisted the trademark “would not give Dell exclusive use of” the term ‘cloud computing,’ and that the name was just to protect its products. The company was considering what to do next.

A Dell spokesperson confirmed to that this was the PTO’s doing and not the company’s. He declined to comment on any further actions Dell might take.

PTO records do not indicate why the Notice of Allowance was cancelled, and the PTO does not discuss pending decisions. So there could be any number of reasons why, according to Frank Duffin, a trademark attorney with the firm of Wiggin and Dana LLP, in New Haven, Conn.

Reasons for withdrawal

Reasons for withdrawal could include a late filing of an extension of time to oppose, or a late opposition, before the allowance was issued. There may also be some manner of informality that was caught that the Office believes needs to be fixed.

Or, in fact, The Office may have reviewed the application and determined that the mark is in fact generic and, as such, is barred from registration, and is returning the application to the Examiner to issue the appropriate refusal.

“It is very difficult to say what the reason the allowance was cancelled is,” Duffin said in an email to “Time will tell, however, as the Examiner will eventually have to take some further action, whether a refusal, Office Action making some manner of requirement, etc.”

However, Jessica Litman, professor of law and information at the University of Michigan has her own suspicions. “I expect the media coverage was what inspired the cancellation,” she said in an e-mailed comment.

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