Psion, owner of “Netbook” trademark, would like world to stop using that word generically

psion_netbook_pro-1.jpg

Psion is sick of hearing about other companies’ netbooks. It’ll even cease and desist you if you talk about them, according to reports.

This is because it used to make a miniature laptop called the Netbook, and still owns a trademark on the term. Its machine was cool, in the way that pricey ultra-mobile computers always are, but not a hit with consumers. It was similar to the NEC MobilePro, HP Jornada, and other machines from the “glory days” of instant-on Windows CE Pocket PCs.

A few years on, it’s nonetheless antsy about the world using it as a generic term to refer to cheap little laptops. Following is one of the missives from its legal firm, which I’m not 100 percent convinced is real.

psion-letter3.jpg

Companies often feel forced to send these letters, even if they have no intention of pursuing action: it’s necessary to defend a trademark.

Thing is, of course, is that Psion isn’t doing anything with the trademark. It now makes ultra-rugged cellphones and vehicle-mount computers under different names. Psion’s lack of recent Netbooks – you won’t easily find reference to the thing on its own website – would seem a textbook example of how to let a trademark fall into generic usage. Perhaps this is a hint of a new consumer product? It’s IKON was a nice piece of kit.

Netbook enthusiast web sites getting C & D using term “netbook” [jkontherun]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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18 Responses to Psion, owner of “Netbook” trademark, would like world to stop using that word generically

  1. OM says:

    …Psion, meet Tabasco. They’ll be glad to explain to you how that trick *never* works.

    Oh, and Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook, Netbook and Netbook! Nyah!

  2. IWood says:

    I’m with Thecolor: netbooknetbooknetbooknetbook! Psion, you’ve essentially trademarked “Kleenex.” Make something new and fabulous for $300 and call it a netbook, and mebbe then you’ll have a case.

    As a mostly-irrelevant aside…

    It was similar to the NEC MobilePro, HP Jornada, and other machines from the “glory days” of instant-on Windows CE Pocket PCs.

    …I bought a Jornada 820 off of eBay awhile back, and it was fab. Small enough to fit in a purse, 10-hour battery life, ran Word. I basically used it like a notebook (the pad-of-paper kind). But that was at the $250 Buy-It-Now price. Its original price point was $999, and I heard the same thing about it then that I’m hearing about some of the pricier netbooks now: for just a little more, you can get a full-on laptop that does more stuff.

  3. Daemon says:

    Well, as usual, an article about Trademark, and only a few comments in, we’re already seeing the usual missing the point of what they are, and who they apply to.

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    @Anonymous #1, who said “I really don’t understand why you’re beating up on Psion for defending their trademark”

    That’s because I didn’t, and you didn’t read the post, which your whiny comment, it turns out, merely recapitulates: “Companies often feel forced to send these letters, even if they have no intention of pursuing action: it’s necessary to defend a trademark.”

    Please read posts before commenting on them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Problem is it doesn’t work. Proof: Photoshop is genericized and a verb, contrary to much effort from Adobe’s legal team.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Interesting to see all the comments saying “get over it”.. can you lot imagine how the world would react if companies started calling their mp3 players “ipods” all of a sudden? It’s exactly the same situation..

  7. samj says:

    This is another disappointing display of abuse of IP to stifle innovation – I’m surprised they are garnering any support whatsoever from the community. It is nothing like the iPod example cited above – Apple would have been all over anyone attempting to use the term immediately. These guys have let the Netbook term build and many manufacturers jump on board before revealing their ‘submarine trademark’ (for want of a better term). Let’s hope sanity prevails and the term is found to be generic. Psion can still go about claiming to have been there first after all…

    Sam

  8. Pantograph says:

    @#1 Oh for netbook’s sake! Just because they didn’t do anything wrong doesn’t mean that they did the right thing. They are a bunch of netbookers IMHO.

    I really loved the secondhand Psion3 I had in the ’90s. It’s a shame Psion has gone down the netbook.

  9. dculberson says:

    Ohhh, but even mentioning it means you’re beating up on them! Rational discourse! Epistemology! Tête-à-tête! Other things I want to sound smart about!

  10. nobrainerdeals says:

    What a waste of paper. If anything it helps them in the future. Like what Rob Beschizza is saying over time they can use it to market themselves as the “first” netbook. They are better off spending that money on that marketing then on their lawyer for this.

  11. HarshLanguage says:

    If the lawyer letters are being sent to blogs, then Psion can take a long walk off a short pier. If they’re being sent to other manufacturers who are using the term to sell their machines (even if it’s not in the actual product names), then they’re likely making a legitimate claim. They also probably have a case against Intel for Intel’s promotion of the term (that is where the term netbook re-originated isn’t it?)

    But in general Psion is fighting a losing battle. I’m sure they see the potential in the, uh, netbook segment and want to take advantage. Best they could do to help their case would be to make a netbook CALLED Netbook. If they just want to fight over the generic term itself, well, that ship has sailed. Though lawyers would be happy to litigate over it for years, I’m sure.

  12. gnosis says:

    Man, I miss my Psion Revo! That thing was amazing – I typed a lot of articles on trains, in parks, etc. on it. I tried a few PDAs after that, but I was never as productive. I could never replicate the speed of typing on the (admittedly small) QWERTY keyboard.

  13. Kenneth Extension says:

    It’s interesting to see Psion attempting to defend a trademark for a product category they invented, apathetically pissed away and have shown zero interest in since. Does anyone else remember the cool stuff they came up with back in the day? I still have a Series 3 handheld somewhere and it’s fantastic example of innovative (and 15-year old) design http://www.mobilecomputermag.co.uk/2007090248/psion-series-3a.html

  14. Chris Tucker says:

    So, if I have a WIND NETBOOK running OS X, does the C&D from Apple take precedence over the C&D from Psion?

    And, in any event, why should I care?

  15. wiredfu says:

    Band-aid, Xerox, Kleenex, Q-Tip, Netbook…

  16. Anonymous says:

    I really don’t understand why you’re beating up on Psion for defending their trademark. They haven’t done anything wrong. The fact that they may not currently be using it for a product name or anything else is beside the point, and you know it. The trademark has value, and they are protecting it. They may use it again later, or sell it. Your cynical attitude is not contributing to rational discussion.

  17. thecolor says:

    netbook netbook netbook. :P Try and stop me! morons.

  18. urshrew says:

    There’s something so juvenile about this plea… its like a corporation just saying “wah!” outloud.

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