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Psion Countersues Intel Over Netbook Term

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 18 comments

Tenions are heating up as Psion launches a counter-suit against Intel for the alleged trademark infringement of the term Netbook.

Last month Intel filed suit seeking the cancellation of the trademark for the term Netbook, held by the Canadian-based firm Psion Teklogix.  Psion is now countersuing Intel for roughly $1.2 billion, along with punitive damages and for ownership of the web address www.netbook.com.  Psion's lawsuit matches Intel's lawsuit tit for tat, while denying Intel's allegations and attempting to draw out Intel's actions as malicious.

Psion originally laid claim to the term Netbook back in 1999 with the release of its strongARM-based Netbook mobile computer.  On 2 October 2003, Psion announced the release of its Netbook Pro mobile computer, which featured an Intel XScale processor, Windows CE.NET and a SVGA TFT display.  The Netbook Pro was described by Psion in the announcement as a connected mobile device that was not quite a PDA, nor quite a laptop, but engineered to address a clearly-defined growing market.

The trouble starts though in early 2008 when Intel decided that it would begin marketing the term Netbook to define the new class of inexpensive ultra-portable notebook that Asus discovered with the release of its Celeron-based EeePC.  Of course, this Netbook marketing push coincided with the release of Intel's Atom platform, which was silicon designed specifically to target this newly popular Netbook market.  Since then it seems that nearly all new netbooks feature the Intel Atom platform, but to many consumers a netbook is still just defined as simply a small and affordable laptop designed for basic tasks.

It appears the actual conflict between Intel and Psion started to gathering traction though in December 2008, as Psion at that time started to send out cease-and-desist notices to hundreds of companies, retailers and bloggers that were using the term netbook without Psion's permission.  Of course, by this time, the term Netbook had already caught on in huge popularity.  Although some have ceased using the term Netbook, such as in Google's Adsense network, other companies, such as Intel and Dell, have decided to fight.

It appears that Dell and Intel are arguing that the Netbook trademark should be revoked since Psion has not had a Netbook in production since 2003 and that Psion has no plans to build anymore of them.  Intel is also arguing that the term netbook is now used by the public in a generic manner and that Psion lost control of its trademark by not acting in time to prevent this from happening.  According to the Internet Archive, Psion was still selling the Netbook Pro online as recently as 2006.

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  • 1 Hide
    eddieroolz , March 2, 2009 10:19 PM
    Doesn't matter if they don't use the trademark though, they filed for it and were given...if they revoke Psion's trademark, then it will be a classic case of big companies bullying smaller ones.
  • 2 Hide
    NuclearShadow , March 2, 2009 10:40 PM
    Well Intel hasn't used the Pentium name for sometime now I wonder how Intel would feel is Psion decided to start using it on a new brand of processors. If Psion loses in court then I hope they do something like this because I would love to see Intel trying to explain why its okay from them to infringe on others trademarks but not viceversa.
  • -5 Hide
    Regected , March 2, 2009 10:42 PM
    I don't think this is a case of a big company bullying a smaller company at all. The term netbook was coined from "internet notebook." This looks like a case of a little company trying to milk money out of a bigger company.
  • 4 Hide
    Raidur , March 2, 2009 10:55 PM
    "Intel is also arguing that the term netbook is now used by the public in a generic manner and that Psion lost control of its trademark by not acting in time to prevent this from happening."

    That is the most BS argument I've ever heard. I hope Intel loses...
  • 0 Hide
    that_aznpride101 , March 3, 2009 12:44 AM
    Terms like "netbook" are similar to words like "rollerblade," "xerox" or "kleenex" which at one time were patented brand names but now are used as generic terms. I don't think these companies won their lawsuits for every blogger or company that used those terms, so I highly doubt Psion will win this battle. I hate to say this, but I'm cheering for Intel on this one.
  • 2 Hide
    tayb , March 3, 2009 1:01 AM
    Big business bullying around small business. The trademark was given to Psion. Think of some other name.
  • 0 Hide
    fo0b4er , March 3, 2009 2:08 AM
    Hey NuclearShadow Intel is selling Pentium processors right now every day! In fact I sell several Pentium Dual Core computers a day at work! Check it out: http://www.intel.com/products/processor/pentium_dual-core/specs.htm
  • 0 Hide
    skine , March 3, 2009 2:22 AM
    NuclearShadowWell Intel hasn't used the Pentium name for sometime now I wonder how Intel would feel is Psion decided to start using it on a new brand of processors. If Psion loses in court then I hope they do something like this because I would love to see Intel trying to explain why its okay from them to infringe on others trademarks but not viceversa.

    It's only been two months since Intel released a Pentium product.
  • 1 Hide
    eddieroolz , March 3, 2009 3:43 AM
    The thing is, the class of laptops we now know could've been called something else - heck, it could've been called anything else. We just happened to catch on to the name "netbook".

    Xerox, rollerblade and kleenex all refer to a brand which were so prevalent, it became synonymous with competing products of the same kind. Xeroxes were and are still called Photocopiers, Kleenex are in reality tissues, and rollerblades....well, they're rollerblades.

    My point, netbook and xerox are in a totally different situation.
  • 0 Hide
    Neog2 , March 3, 2009 5:25 AM
    Its funny because i never knew intel had anything to do with making the
    term netbook as popular as it is today.
    I mean you dont see anything like Intel's netbook platform on these netbooks.
    And besides they are suing for 1.2 billion. Why?

    Im not saying they shouldnt be awarded some money but how do you come up
    with this figure. Your company was very profitable in the so called netbook
    business. Actually they didnt make 1.2 billion dollars over the whole time
    they where selling netbooks. And lets not talk about actual real dollars not
    even 100 million. So how could you possibly be asking for a billion dollars.
    Get real stop trying to milk it.

    Intel isnt even selling netbooks. They just used the term to describe small
    laptops that arent really laptops.

    And if you really want to get into it. There so called netbook isnt anything
    like whats out now. There stuff was always more like an organizer I thought.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , March 3, 2009 9:53 AM
    Neog2And besides they are suing for 1.2 billion. Why?

    They're probably counting on settling this without a court, and 1.2 gives them plenty of room to negotiate down to perhaps 0.4 and still make a nice living out of it.
  • 0 Hide
    shqtth , March 3, 2009 1:46 PM
    The term netbook is gay.

    I stick witht he Name EEE for ASUS, and copy cats for the rest.

    The truth is, my EEE is not just for surfing the internet. So why call it a Netbook? a EEE is what a laptop/nootebook should be as it actually fits on your lap, where the 17" monsters have no right to use the name laptop/nokebook as they are not portable. Mini Laptop is a better term or sub notebook, but netbook is just stupid, as there sub notebooks don't have wifi or 3g build in them yet, so inernet usage is not always available to the product. Imagine calling a devide a cell phone when it can only use WIFI or have cell access sometimes?

  • 1 Hide
    hellwig , March 3, 2009 2:57 PM
    By Intel's logic, they should lose all rights to x86. The x86 design is so popular and prevalent in today's PCs, Intel shouldn't have any rights to it anymore. If we are going to invalidate trademarks, might as well invalidate copyrights and patents too (they're all the same department). Find the most popular thing in any market and make it free to the public. Windows, iPods, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, all these things should belong to us, because we made them so popular, screw the rights of the companies. Harry Potter was so popular I don't see why J.K. Rowling should get to hold the copyright for the rest of her life + 70 years, that's just not fair to all her millions of fans.

    If Psion didn't have a proper claim to Netbook, it would be different, but Intel can't just argue to invalidate the trademark because they want to use it, that is bullying pure and simple. If Intel could show that NetBook was popular before Psion acquired the trademark in 1999, invalidate it. If NetBook didn't become popular until Asus released the EEE in 2007 (8 years later), then Psion has every right to defend its trademark. Remember 1999 was WELL before any other company released anything close to a Netbook. Psion was the first into this market, just a little ahead of their time (no Wi-Fi prevalence in 1999). They shouldn't be punished just because they pioneered a market.
  • 0 Hide
    captaincharisma , March 3, 2009 4:13 PM
    common names shouldn't be trademarked at all. like MS was able to win against lindows for copying from the name windows. its stupid i hope intel wins this as it is stupid how you can copyright a name
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 3, 2009 4:52 PM
    I say nutz to Psion. Yes, they trademarked "Netbook"; the "Psion Netbook" and the "Psion Netbook Pro". This was a single product, it wasn't X86, it wasn't a laptop or PC, it was a clamshell (kinda) PDA running Psion's OS or Windows Mobile.

    It's like trademarking the word "Processor", or "motherboard" or even "laptop". I'm sure somebody invented the word at one time, and it made so much sense that everybody started using it.

    What if the first product called a "notebook computer" trademarked the name? I dont think it's fair... Convergent evolution, nobody is at fault here. Psion should use this as an opportunity to get INTO the netbook market- They've never been in it before.
  • 0 Hide
    shqtth , March 3, 2009 5:14 PM
    If there was no trademark, do you realize how confusing things would be if different products used the same name? Also, if an add was on tv or someone read something, then googled it, they would have a hard time finding the product, or they might buy what another companies product by mistake. This is unfair as the primary company ois doing the marketing, and someone else bennifits off it.

    So in a way trademarks is a good idea. But trademarks shouldnt be used for common named like 'windows', but in the case I think their tademakr is on windows being an OS. ANd in a way lindows sounds like windows, and could be confusing, but hey we know the difference between L and W., so i dont agree they conflict. But if someone was selling another OS then I would agree with that trademark.
  • 0 Hide
    zuesacuatl , March 3, 2009 6:50 PM
    actually, People in the macworld do not call the motherboard a motherboard cause that was trademarked for the x86 franchise, they call it the main logic board, or other terms. It is funny how it works, but in all honesty, it is such a generic term now that they should have compensation for when it was being mainstreamed, but should have no rights to a generic term now.
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , March 3, 2009 10:03 PM
    hellwigBy Intel's logic, they should lose all rights to x86. The x86 design is so popular and prevalent in today's PCs, Intel shouldn't have any rights to it anymore. If we are going to invalidate trademarks, might as well invalidate copyrights and patents too (they're all the same department). Find the most popular thing in any market and make it free to the public. Windows, iPods, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, all these things should belong to us, because we made them so popular, screw the rights of the companies. Harry Potter was so popular I don't see why J.K. Rowling should get to hold the copyright for the rest of her life + 70 years, that's just not fair to all her millions of fans.If Psion didn't have a proper claim to Netbook, it would be different, but Intel can't just argue to invalidate the trademark because they want to use it, that is bullying pure and simple. If Intel could show that NetBook was popular before Psion acquired the trademark in 1999, invalidate it. If NetBook didn't become popular until Asus released the EEE in 2007 (8 years later), then Psion has every right to defend its trademark. Remember 1999 was WELL before any other company released anything close to a Netbook. Psion was the first into this market, just a little ahead of their time (no Wi-Fi prevalence in 1999). They shouldn't be punished just because they pioneered a market.


    Couldn't have said it any better. +1.