Psion has responded to us with regards to the ongoing “netbook” trademark fight that Intel (s intc) and Dell (s 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.