Netbook Trademark Kerfuffle is All About The Money


Last week, jkOnTheRun broke the news that Psion Teklogix, owner of the “Netbook” trademark, was sending cease-and-desist (C&D) letters to some blogs and smaller web sites. The news stirred up enough controversy that Psion’s law firm, Origin, sent a response to jkOnTheRun to clarify a few points. For instance they said that they are only going after entities that are “making a direct, financial profit from use of the ‘Netbook’ trademark.” 

They clarified that 95 percent of the C&D letters were sent to “retailers and manufacturers using the ‘Netbook’ trademark (including the very largest players in this space.” No letters have been sent to blogs, tech enthusiast sites or review sites. The rest of the C&D notices have gone to people who have “sponsored advertising or other for-profit links.” In cases of people using contextual advertising (read: Google ads), Psion is going after retailers and manufacturers and not bloggers. In other words, the whole drama is to make some shekels. Nothing wrong with that, though if Psion really wants to have an impact (i.e. make a lot of money), then it should go after the big kahuna, Intel Corp. (s INTC), which has been liberal with the term netbooks.



Actually Psion appear to be on very shaky ground when it comes to these trademarks, which would at least partly explain why they are backing off on the threats. Trademarks are designed to protect company investments in brands from hijacking by the public, but what is going on here is exactly the opposite. Consumers are just starting to realise the benefit of the new class of device in the form of long overdue cheap, reliable hardware and given the insatiable demand the term grew organically since around OLPC’s introduction in 2005 and now. We’ve been unable to find any evidence that Psion contributed to the current iteration of netbooks, and as such it is not theirs to take from the public lexicon. Fortunately there are rules forbidding terms that are merely descriptive (like yellow bananas) and also for genericide (where your trademarked term fails to identify the source of your products and therefore becomes generic). In our opinion Psion fail on both counts and as such their trademarks don’t hold water. We encourage you to join us, even if just by raising awareness of the campaign:

“Save the Netbooks” campaign launched to fight impending trademark threat

The “Save the Netbooks” campaign is fighting the impending trademark threat from Psion Teklogix, who have given until the end of March 2009 to cease using the term citing trademarks relating to a line of products discontinued over 5 years ago.

For more information visit

Om Malik


I still think Psion was the best PDA/portable I ever owned. It was so easy to use and was far far ahead of its time.

Heather Kenendy

I would say that they are just putting a band-aid on the problem by sending out a flurry of letters, but then perhaps I should says an adhesive bandage. Kleenex/tissue. Do they really want to be known for this? Isn’t their money better spent coming up with a clever marketing/pr campaign that takes advantage of the fact that they were the first to coin netbook? Drop the netbook part of it of entirely. Be known for being the best netbook. period. Now when I think of Psion, I’ll think of this. And buy an Acer anyway.


I guess it’s all about timing – did’nt Apple have the first PDA – failed because it was too soon in the tech evolution cycle, then out came Palm – a runaway success at the time – but we all used PDA as a descriptive term and Apple didnt seem to get upset about it?

I agree, there is a time when a noun becomes an adjective – and the time for ‘netbook’ as an adjective has arrived! (has anyone copyrighted ‘cloud’)!

By the way I had a Psion – what a fantastic PDA that was – with a keyboard that popped out to a near full size – great trickery – can we see that again!




I think that some of these trademarks should be revisited, the term netbook may have meant a particular make of computer but now it is used to define a type of computer. It is like trademarking the term sedan even though it is simply a type of car.

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