German Company to Blogger — We Own the Smartbook Name, Stop Using It


bullyWell, we predicted another trademark fight was coming over the term “smartbook”, and it turns out we were spot on. The same type of fight that was fought over the term “netbook” is now being fired up for the “smartbook” term. Sascha Pallenberg of Netbooknews is a friend of ours and he has received a take-down notice from a German company. The notice has been published on Sascha’s site and demands he remove all instances of the term “smartbook” from his two sites within the next two weeks or face the consequences.

The company is Smartbook and I suspect they went after Sascha as he is German and is a German language blog covering netbooks. The tactic is similar to the one used by Psion in their trademark fight over the “netbook” term. Psion’s fight went on to include Intel and Dell and was eventually settled out of court.

I feel for Sascha and urge him to hold on. The company is trying to bully him to get publicity for their cause. I suspect they will eventually go after Qualcomm and other companies actively promoting the smartbook name.



It’s ridiculous until you have your own company/product with a cool name and then someone much bigger comes along and starts using it.

Like I said in an earlier comment, I don’t know what the solution is given that no matter what cool name you come up with for something it’s bound to be used by someone else somewhere already.


So I am not a lawyer and I certainly don’t know German law, but assuming it’s correct that companies have to protect their copyrights/trademarks in order to keep them, what do you suggest should Smartbook AG (the company) do? Xerox is apparently fighting the same battle against generic use of their name:

Looking at GigaOM’s Terms and Conditions page, I find this blurb (which I think is pretty standard boilerplate text):

“You may not use any GigaOM logo or any other proprietary graphic or trademark without GigaOM’s express written permission.”

Did GigaOM trademark the name GigaOM? Would I not be violating this rule if I blogged about GigaOM and used that name and maybe accompanied the article with the GigaOM logo that I ripped of the GigaOM website? Or are bloggers and the traditional press excluded from these restrictions?

Clearly, in today’s global world it’s pretty much impossible to come up with meaningful names for new products that haven’t been used somewhere else for something similar (or even unrelated). Not really sure what to do about it.

James Kendrick

Companies have every right to protect their trademarks from use by other businesses trying to capitalize on them. But no one can prevent people from using words, trademarked or not. And both blogs and main stream media has the right to use terms in coverage of topics they cover, trademarked or not. It’s called “fair use”.

If this company truly is after protecting their trademark then they should be contacting businesses using the term to sell products.


Like I said, it appears Xerox is trying to protect their trademark, too, by “fighting” against the generic use of its name (please read *what* they are actually doing).

It might even be that they (Xerox, Smartbook AG) don’t really care about the media using the trademarked term in a more generic fashion, but the mere fact that they took steps to protect their trademark early on can later be used to argue that they still deserve the trademark. Why is this important? Well, if they actually lost their trademark, someone could come along and sell knock-off products under their brand name.

Actually, instead of just speculating, I should just point here for info that’s more likely to be accurate and well-thought-out:


Dear mr Kendrick:

You have used the term “smartbook” in at least 6 instances for this article. The Germans will be along shortly…

I wonder if you space it ‘smart book’ if they can do anything?

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