Blog Post

Google to Psion- “netbook” is indeed a protected trademark

landing_netbookpro_whiteLate last year we were covering the news that Psion was informing folks that they owned the trademark for the term “netbook” and that it should not be used generically.  Psion subsequently responded to our coverage and stated that they were only going to go after those who were using the term “netbook” in ventures for profit.

It’s been quiet for a bit about this but today Psion let us know that Google has investigated the trademark claim and determined that “netbook” is indeed a protected trademark.  Google does these investigations as they are impacted when they run ads on their network. The determination by Google that the term “netbook” is duly registered and protected has prompted them to inform their ad customers that the term can no longer be used in Google ads.

It will be interesting to see how Intel reacts as they are openly using the netbook term in their promotional material and in fact run a web site at that domain.  Can I hear a mini-notebook from the crowd?  Or sub-note?

24 Responses to “Google to Psion- “netbook” is indeed a protected trademark”

  1. The ball’s back in Google’s court now:

    If Psion’s “netbook” trademarks are good enough for Google they’re good enough for the rest of us, right? Not necessarily. While this is a victory chalked up for the visitors it is less significant than it has been made out to be. Furthermore, reversing it now could well prove the death knell for Psion’s marks (it would be far worse to have this victory briefly than to have not had it in the first place). Here’s hoping that Google do the right thing sooner rather than later.
    Fortunately it shouldn’t be all that difficult. Here’s why…

  2. “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

  3. canadian student

    I thought that for trademarks, the term has to be in general use associated with a product in order to be valid – that is, a trademark is only valid so long as its being current and actively used to denote the origin of source/name of a product.

    Although Psion had a device called a ‘netbook’ years ago, they no longer make or sell such a product, and the term as since evolved to refer to a common genre of small, internet-oriented personal computer devices – i.e. the term ‘netbook’ has become genericized to refer to a class of products that came about on their own as part of a broader and inevitable trend in technology and social development, rather than to a specific brand of long-since-discontinued product that had little to no effect on the development of this trend.

    I can understand that Psion has to launch these letters and suits to show they are actively trying to protect their trademark as part of the use it or lose it requirements of general trademark law. No doubt Google’s lawyers probably did a thorough review of the law and their liabilities, but I wonder maybe if TM law needs to evolve to account for inevitable trends in socio-technological development, lest is constrain societies broader interests in developing and marketing products that are of interest and benefit to people that are capable of greater success in the market.

    Just some thoughts. Peace-out.

  4. I still don’t understand this issue. Wind Netbook, Coby Netbook, G Netbook and Netbooks are all different trademarks too (according to The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). How then could the noun “Netbook” belong solely to Psion? I would assume their trademark refers to a stylized version, as opposed to the word itself.

  5. Of course IBook was meant to be tongue-in-cheek as Apple has already produced the iBook and almost certainly has the trademark for that name. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.

  6. posted this on UMPCPortal…..

    I would guess that Intel could come in and write a big huge check for it. Then because they then own the trademark, issue guidelines on how it should be used. Maybe not. Maybe they do the right thing and push it into open source. Or maybe a consortium of OEMS and manufacturers buck up and make the investment….

    Worst case, industry needs to use a different term. Some have used the term “mini-notebooks”, maybe “minis”, maybe “internetbook”, maybe “ibook”.

  7. Andrew Cook

    As a huge Psion fan (and owner of 5mx clone (Ericcson MC218) and the origianl Netbook (running the EXCELLENT EPOC operating system)… I am at a loss to see what Psion is playing at here. Psion has (had) a superb instant on, SSD based product that was simply bullet-proof. Then they got arrogant and did not want a colour 5mx, USB ports, Bluetooth and all the other things people wanted integrated too. Given that in 1999 Psion had a superb product in the S7/Netbook (WAY ahead of its time / the Joe Bloggs marketplace) …. you would have thought that they could grab some of the hype from bringing out something new & learning from old mistakes. Apple have done it! “A decade on, Psion, makers of the Original Netbook ack in 1999 …. release …” etc etc ??

  8. nickc321

    I still think their needs to be definition… some of these small form-factor portable computers are as powerful as any other notebook and sport full size hard-drives while others are definitely more net-centric with small SSD. the bottom line is that a notebook is a notebook, some are just smaller than others.

  9. animatio

    time will make psion a looser in this by 2 points:
    they do not have an active product in the market anymore for some time now.
    the public has already taken over the expression “netbook”. if this occurs protection by law will be lost anyway. it is only a matter of time like many earlier examples show (even procter & gamble lost against the public use of originally protected names as terms of common sense).

  10. @Jake

    “However, if they were to win a court case I propose that the new name should be “tiny laptops”. Sony can call the Vaio P a “really, tiny laptop”.”

    LMFAO!! i’m in on the tiny laptops! :P

  11. It seems to me that they haven’t adequately protected their trademark. However, if they were to win a court case I propose that the new name should be “tiny laptops”. Sony can call the Vaio P a “really, tiny laptop”.