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Summary:

Psion has responded to us with regards to the ongoing “netbook” trademark fight that Intel and Dell most recently kicked up a notch.  In case you have been living under a rock, Psion sold a laptop-like device in the early 2000s called the Netbook Pro.  They […]

psion-netbook-proPsion has responded to us with regards to the ongoing “netbook” trademark fight that Intel and Dell most recently kicked up a notch.  In case you have been living under a rock, Psion sold a laptop-like device in the early 2000s called the Netbook Pro.  They trademarked the term “netbook” and last year began defending their trademark by asking folks to stop using the term to describe low-cost notebooks.

Recently Dell and Intel filed petitions asking for the cancellation of Psion’s “netbook” trademark, citing abandonment of the “netbook” term since Psion was no longer selling the product.  They both also claimed that in 2006 Psion lied to regulators by claiming they were still actively using the term in business conducted over the Netbook Pro.

Psion’s representatives have contacted us in response to these claims by Dell and Intel to defend their position:

In 2006, Psion in fact had multi-million dollar sales of the Netbook ® Pro computer in both the US and the EU.  The bulk of sales were (and continue to be) in the highly specialised supply chain logistics area – perhaps not the easiest thing for third parties to get visibility on, but nevertheless, real sales to real customers in the US.  And those real sales to real customers in the US continue even to this day.  Attached is a typical Netbook ® Pro sales flyer (not included here), so you can see that Psion really were (and are) branding this computer as a ‘Netbook’.

I can quite understand why people might have assumed that sales ceased a while back – it’s not as if the product has been in Best Buy.  But those people simply had no access to Psion’s confidential sales information.

So the facts are that, although manufacture has been discontinued, sales in the US and EU have not.    And its continuing sales that are important to preventing a trademark from becoming abandoned.  We’ll of course be setting the record straight in our court filings.

Incidentally, manufacture of the Netbook ® Pro had to cease prematurely not because of any lack of demand.  It was because supplies of a replacement for a specialised chip controller could not be found – the Netbook ® Pro had very sophisticated power management, given it 8 hours of runtime and 10 days in standby, as well as instant-on (still an amazing feature in a laptop).  Because of the sophisticated nature of the Netbook ® Pro design, a simple replacement controller could not be found and that meant that manufacture had to cease once those supplies of controllers were exhausted; it was a great pity.

I hope this clarifies the situation; Psion continues to sell the Netbook ® Pro computer.  It’s got all the invoices to prove multi-million dollar sales in the US in 2006, and sales that continue even to this day.  There’s been no abandonment of the trademark.

Just because we’re not selling tens of thousands through Best Buy doesn’t mean we’re not entitled to our trademark.

Psion’s claim to continuing sales of the Netbook Pro is downright interesting and would appear to open a whole can of worms.  If they are able to prove to the trademark folks that these claims are true then it would seem to eliminate the abandonment of the trademark in question.

I’m not a lawyer by any means and my take on this whole situation means very little in the legal scheme of things.  I have felt that this netbook trademark situation wasn’t clear-cut and it certainly might be getting even cloudier, by the sound of things.  The term netbook has also been claimed as having become too generic to be trademarked, that may still be an issue for Psion.

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  1. Hehe, nice strategy to argue that their sales are mainly in the enterprise and vertical markets. So it’s just getting more expensive for Intel and Dell. Who cares, they should just figure it out as soon as possible, cause this situation at the moment is just weird.

    There is no way that Psion can turn back time. The term Netbook is everywhere and you know what? I always loved their devices, so go on get them on the best buy shelves and sell the Psion netbook. Guess what? Noone will buy them cause this is the year 2009 and these platforms are not competitive anymore.

    So come out with something new Psion! You guys have enough experience to build a $150 netbook with an awesome batterylife, instant on feature and 3G.

    1. It’s not a strategy; it’s recorded history. Psion’s last major announcement on the product was in August 2006. It involved supplying a U.S. beverage distributor with mobile computers, including the Netbook Pro.
      http://www.sys-con.com/node/263069
      Even a normal course of service and replacement on this contract would account for sales through the present. They’re not just making up a B2B argument.

    2. come on of course it’s a stragey. They could have told this from the very first beginning. Look up some Psion forums, get involved and you will know about the availability of the Psion netbook. Nice try to spin it, though Mr Sumocat!

    3. Okay a strategy they planned 2.5 years ago. I suppose they also announced that sale to avoid prima facie trademark abandonment in preparation for when Intel destroys their trademark on February 2008.

  2. Agreed Psion has squandered multiple opportunities to get its product into the mainstream. Dell and Intel are going to bury them in legal costs, and rightfully so. Asus should consider joining the same effort.

  3. I find it interesting that the Netbook Pro is listed on Psion’s website as discontinued if it is indeed something that they continue to sell.

    1. Items get discontinued all the time. Remaining stocks can take a while to be sold. I found many discontinued items when CompUSA closed, not that they were priced to sale.

      Once they run out of stock and no longer support the product, this will be like the Apple Newton. I am sure Apple would protect their trademark in Newton, too.

    2. @steve: Well, it would still be discontinued, and therefore not still be sold, so even though the courts might decide that they still retain the right to the trademark, they aren’t still selling the product!

  4. RE: the genericness of the “netbook” term, anyone paying attention to computer tech for the past year knows that Intel (re)introduced it in 2008. If you weren’t paying attention, you can go back through the archives of pretty much any tech site, including jkOnTheRun, and see for yourself. The term did not spring into use on its own.

    1. wow, that’s pretty new to me. I absolutely didn’t know that Intel made it up during the spring IDF in Shanghai last march. Actually i am using it since them. ;)

    2. Actually it was last February. Earliest use appears to be in a video on YouTube. It was then reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Intel on their blog. It can all be found through Google. You can look it up for yourself or check out the roundup on my blog. The data I present is out there for anyone to find. I’m just compiling it because no one else is.

  5. The interesting can of worms to me is their comment about “not having access to confidential sales information”. Trademarks are to protect public products. By their own admission the product has left the public market space. Sounds like the recently departed Bush administration is still providing Psion with legal advice. :-)

    Everybody and their left handed potato eating brother is marketing a “netbook” these days. I don’t understand why Psion hasn’t just taken the step of rebranding an Acer Aspire One (one of the popular re-brands) and really bolstered their claim to the trademark by rolling out a real currently made Psion netbook. That should really put a fork in Intel and Dell’s claims.

    1. And yet Lockheed Martin claims the trademarks on the F-22 Raptor.
      http://www.lockheedmartin.com/data/assets/12024.pdf
      Pretty sure those aren’t sold the the public.

    2. Sumocat only because the US Government controls the sales. If John Travolta wanted one to go with his 707 I’m sure Lockheed would be more than happy to sell him one if they could. The trademark on the Raptor lets Lockheed control all the caps/jackets/patches/buttons/Revell model kits/Estees Rockets etc… that they can sell to the general public.

    3. Okay, first the only reason they don’t sell Raptors is an unmovable one, so we might as well speculate that “dog” would be better if it was spelled “cat.” Second, would Lockheed Martin lose that trademark if they only produced the jet, not the merchandise? What about other B2B companies? Is ADM not entitled to the trademarks they claim?
      http://www.adm.com/en-US/Pages/termsofuse.aspx

  6. heh..

    … last time I heard their netbook pro was not even RoHS compliant… so they could not even sell it.

    .. and I was involved on a btob project where customer wanted 1000 psion netbooks… psion of course couldn’t deliver as it was no longer in production…

    1. Now you’ve done it! Don’t be surprised to get a subpoena with statements like that! ;)

    2. LMAO, nice way to burst Psion’s bubble! :)

  7. Will Psion bring out their own Netbook?

  8. GoodThings2Life Friday, February 27, 2009

    If Psion wants to have any credibility as a business, they’ll release a new model worthy of the netbook name and market it as “the ultimate netbook from the original netbook maker!”

    Otherwise (and please pardon the expression) it’s time to “s**t or get off the pot” as the saying goes, because Psion is just pulling excuses and claims out of their rabbit hat at this point.

  9. Let’s see those flyers/images.

  10. If Psion got a Netbook trademark all others SHOULD STOP trying to rob the brand or arguing that netbook is a too generic thing to have a trademark. Psion seems to have the right here, would Intel or Dell let people use their obsolete brands just because they don’t use it anymore, the big answer is NOT, so if Psion trademark hasn’t expired, pack your ass together and go elsewhere to rob any other small company…. Even is so anti-innovation that pretends to grab a trademark from somebody else because it looks too generic…. Generic my **s.

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