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Lenovo’s Lawyers Prompt Framework to Change 3D Printed Case

Orange Framework 3d printed case
(Image credit: Framework)

Framework is changing the shape of the power button on its open source, 3D-printed cases for its mainboards after it received a letter from Lenovo's legal team suggesting the button looks too much like Lenovo's Legion "O" trademark, Framework tweeted today.

The clip of the letter can be seen in the tweet below, which you may have to expand.


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The letter, directed to Framework Computer CEO Nirav Patel, is only shown in a partial screenshot and is on letterhead from Lenovo's lawyers at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. "We believe that the Broken O Case" may infringe Lenovo's trademark rights in the LEGION Trademarks, and may ultimately lead to consumer confusion," it reads in part, further suggesting that Framework's case or mainboard may appear to be affiliated with Lenovo. While we can't see the rest of the letter's contents, it may be a cease and desist letter.

Framework doesn't seem interested in fighting the challenge. Instead, it's starting a community contest for the new design. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 Pacific Time on Aug. 25, with a winner "judged subjectively by our CEO"  on Aug. 26.

No date is shown on the snippet of the letter that Framework tweeted, so it's unclear when Lenovo's lawyers sent it. Framework first started offering the 3D printing schematics in April when it began selling mainboards separately from its computers. It doesn't appear that Framework ever directly sold the case in its marketplace.

Lenovo did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. We'll update this story if it responds. Framework acknowledged a request but didn't return with a statement in time for publication.

Lenovo's Legion lineup consists of the company's premium gaming laptops, desktops and monitors. Some lower-end laptops are also under Lenovo's Ideapad branding. Lenovo's "O" design is typically used within the word "Legion" on its products, though previous versions of the design were used alone. Framework doesn't currently offer any products other than its Framework Laptop and components for it and has yet to step into gaming.

The "O" shaped power button on the 3D case isn't on the Framework Laptop, so its flagship product should be unaffected.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE

  • Gam3r01
    There is certainly enough similarity, but they handled this the best way possible.
    Its really a non issue to change it, and having the community involved, generating some excitement, and hosting a giveaway is far more beneficial than trying to argue the point.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    I'm no lawyer, but most people shouldn't fold to the first cease and desist letter, because anybody can threaten a lawsuit for anything. They're usually just fear tactics and straight bullying. The section of the Lenovo letter shown seems more like a polite request than a C&D.

    That said, the design looks like it needs to function as a sort of living hinge/spring and I doubt Framework are the first or last to use that design. So I propose that Framework uses one of the following 3 alternatives to make avoiding customer confusion.
    The same design, but rotated 180 degrees.
    A Peace Sign.
    The Chrome Logo.
    Reply
  • BillyBuerger
    I thought that was a fan vent on the Framework case. As this is exactly the same design used on many 40mm stamped grills like on 1U PSUs. Maybe Lenovo shouldn't have copied an existing pattern that is commonly used to represent their products.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    So, can't have a circle of plastic supported by three radially symmetrical posts. I would so go to the floor on this one, make them prove it and see what language they come up with.

    Might have to sue every older laptop design ever, most rack mount fans, the list goes on...
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    So a Chinese company bulled an American company over something so petty it's worthy of an Apple lawsuit, and the American company capitulated without a fight...Over something so generic you could argue that they took the Arecibo Observatory's radio dish (AKA Goldeneye's Cradle) when viewed directly from above and copied that design, because THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID...

    Reply
  • escksu
    Haha, I thought that was the holes for the exhaust fans. Thats "O" is pretty much the standard design for exhaust fan holes on many many devices....

    But Legion cannot sue the companies because these holes existed long before Lenovo was incorporated as a company.
    Reply
  • ottonis
    Lenovo just helped Framework to gain a bit of worldwide attention - for free.
    More sympathies and attention to Framework and more smh's to Lenovo.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    The button design is horrible from a mechanical perspective: with straight spokes holding the center, pushing the button pulls on all sides and accelerate mechanical fatigue. There should be some degree of flexturing at the spokes' connection to reduce stress.
    Reply
  • Evil_Overlord
    Is Lenovo also going to send a letter to Canonical demanding lost revenue because the same symbol was used as a primary component in the Ubuntu logo?


    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    So a Chinese company bulled an American company over something so petty it's worthy of an Apple lawsuit, and the American company capitulated without a fight...Over something so generic you could argue that they took the Arecibo Observatory's radio dish (AKA Goldeneye's Cradle) when viewed directly from above and copied that design, because THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID...

    I've pretty sure you can find double arches in many places too. Trademark holders don't own the word or shape. They just have an exclusive right to use that mark in a particular market. You can totally call your law firm "McDonald & McDonald", for instance, since no reasonable person would think that you're backed by the fast food chain. The purpose of trademark laws is to prevent market confusion. Sometimes it could seem unfair. There're probably dozens of Tonys in New York upset that they can't call their pizzeria "Tony's Pizza". But what's to be done? Obviously having a number of different pizzerias all operating under the name would not be consumer-friendly.

    The case in question is a clear-cut trademark violation (most unlikely unintentional). That's why Framework chose not to put up a fight. The chance of winning is exactly zero. Like the first pizza-making Tony, Lenovo got there first. Trademarks work under the principle of defend-it-or-lose-it. Lenovo isn't doing anything outrageous here. Just protecting their logo from trademark dilution as they're supposed to. I'm glad Framework didn't choose to play victim.
    Reply