back to article Intel sues Psion over 'netbook' trademark

Intel has followed Dell and launched legal action against Psion to recover 'netbook' as a generic term for little laptops. And it accuses the PDA pioneer of fibbing to US trademark overseers. In a complaint filed with the US District Court of Northern California earlier this month, the chip giant asks that Psion Teklogix's …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A quick skim of some of those 30 million results

    suggests that the term IS generic, despite Psion's bleating.

    Just a random sample of them shows that people usually aren't talking about Psion products when they refer to netbooks.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Did I misread this?

    "Psion said that 30 million Google page hits found by entering the search term 'netbook' was proof the the word isn't 'generic'."

    I just did that and the only referece to Psion on the first page was a Reg article about the lawsuit.

    I'm confused.

  3. Mark Daniels
    Thumb Up

    A Psion Netbook....

    ... running symbain once more.

    Now that I would buy .

    Stuff Intel.


  4. goggyturk


    I find this all unbelievably sad and pathetic - a powerhouse of innovation that should have been a world beater (Psion) reduced to grubbing around in the gutter as a patent troll.

    Having said that, if they ever do another iteration of the NetBook (TM), put me down for one.

  5. Bassey


    Surely a word must have been in common use BEFORE the IP application for Intel et al's argument to stand up. If 20+ companies wilfully infringe on someone's IP so that the word BECOMES common useage, that is evidence of the scale of the damage done to the IP owners property, not proof of the 20+ companies innocence.

    If I were to launch a chocolate bar and refer to it as a type of "Cadbury", and then encourage other chocolate bar manufacturers to do the same such that the public start referring to a type of chocolate bar as a "Cadbury", that's just proof that I've caused damage to the name Cadbury, not an argument for stripping another company of the name and calling it a "generic term".

  6. Code Monkey


    Let's go back to calling them laptots, then. I liked laptot.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    I can't help but feel there's a bit of a freetard mentality common in the comments to these Psion articles.

    The company registered a trademark in 1996 and made products using their name. Other people have come along and are using it and somehow they're the bad man for trying to protect their property?

    Volkswagen, Citroën, Fiat and other car manufacturers have brought back old obsolete brands over the last few years - cars that weren't in production for many years but then got a millennium makeover and marketing. If other car companies had tried to use those names on their own new models then they'd have been sued. And I don't think the argument that the original companies hadn't made those models in years and no one is going to confuse the old and new cars would wash. So why are so many posters happy to follow this logic for Psion?

    Psion is a healthy company that has no reason to be gone in another 10 or 20 years. Who knows what will happen in mobile computing in that time, and it's perfectly reasonable to think that one day they may like to bring out new models and ressurect some old brand names, such as 'netBook'.

    If they *don't* take action now then the same posters will call them negligent later in, should try and reuse and protect their property then.

    At first I thought it was a bit sad that Psion were doing this without bringing out new models, but the more bullying I see from the freetard mob, the more i want to support them as an old-time user.

    Of course, if they still actually made PDAs, netbooks and smartphones, there'd still be a large Psion community out there to help with the evangelising of their legal efforts.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I vote for laptots too. Netbook may be generic term, but then it's too vague. If Intel want to focus on their *new* small market then why use an overused generic term?

    Laptots, go on, it was my word, but I can make plenty more. Instead of paying lawyers, why not pay some creative types to dream up new words? Take the positive line instead of the negative one Intel.....

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Patent Trolls... all of them

    Dull, terribly dull. Two patent trolls biting each others ankles in an attempt to out-bore each other.

    Despite the waffle about 30m google hits proving genericity or not, neither side is in this for the public benefit. The complainants are hoping to avoid penalties and doubtless want to use the name themselves to sell more kit, Psion are trying to earn revenue from a defunct product line without having to actually resurrect it.

    Personally I hope the lawyers fees destroy all involved companies....

  10. Anonymous Coward


    I remember a time where the generic term for a vacuum-cleaner for the man on the street was hoover. Funny how none of Hoovers competitors ever marketed their products under that new generic term... As for the fact the Psion hadnt been using Netbook as a trademark for the last 5 years - maybe they should wait a few more years and start branding products under Pentium?

  11. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    It's only generic because...

    The marketing scumbags at Intel, Dell et al have abused Psions rights in bandying about a registered trademark without properly doing their homework, and then arrogantly expecting to get away with bullying tactics when Psion try to protect what is theirs.

    You go Psion!!! I still remember Hungry Horace.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thing is

    "The company registered a trademark in 1996 and made products using their name. Other people have come along and are using it and somehow they're the bad man for trying to protect their property?"

    Yes but they were not activly defending the trademark between the death of the psion netbook adn the current common useage, if you do NOT activly defend a trademark you lose the protection of it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biro and Portacabin

    Any reader of Private Eye will know just what I'm talking about.

    We all use "trademarked" words in every day life. How many of us "hoover" with a Dyson.

    If Dyson had run adverts saying "this is our new hoover" or Parker ran adverts saying "this is our new Biro" then the law suits would start flying.

    OK maybe Psion are being a silly but Intel don't exactly come out of this with their halo shining either.

  14. Aortic Aneurysm


    "Of course, if they still actually made PDAs, netbooks and smartphones, there'd still be a large Psion community out there to help with the evangelising of their legal efforts"

    My employers currently have 60+ Psion Workabout Pro's out in the field, getting used regularly. Fantastic pieces of kit.

  15. Tim Schomer

    Go Psion!

    If Intel wins in this one it'll set a VERY dangerous precedent (hence I want Psion to win).

  16. Neil Greatorex

    This is a trademark..

    and they are perfectly entitled to protect it, and should continue to do so.

    Let's start a campaign, I propose that El Reg replace the words "lose" and "win" with Intel and Psion respectively.

    "nuLabour Intel their majority in Whitby Town last night"

    "IBM psion big new IT contract"

  17. David Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Im with Psion

    Yes common usage does not as per the quoted Hoover example and also JCB, in fact iPod is an adopted generic term for MP3 plater and I cant imagine Apple letting that get used all over the place. Do trademarks lapse, again the quoted issue with retro cars is a good example of why then should not.

    Its not tollism IMHO

  18. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Psion, kicked in the nuts

    Not surprising when one publicity starved company tries and takes on the big boys.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps Psion should

    Build a device and name it pentium or 486

  20. David Simpson

    Stupid posters everywhere

    Psion cannot start using the Pentium brand name in a couple of years as payback stupid, Intel still sell Pentiums.

    The point here is no-one really sells netbooks they sell EeePcs or Aspire Ones, the term netbook is generic it describes a catagory not one product. If Psion didn't product any netbooks then why should it keep the patent on the name.

    And Bassey your stupid story about Cadbury makes no sense since the name cadbury is a name and has no actual connection to chocolate, whereas a netbook is perfectly descriptive as a noun to describe a notebook with just enough cpu/power to access the net !

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Backing Psion

    I completely agree with the other comments on supporting Psion, why should some huge corporates think they can just swat Psion away when they have a seemingly valid claim.

    Psion is a great company, I still have fond memories of my old Psion Organiser ][ and the series3, and their current Ikon pda looks like a proper geezers bit of kit unlike those nancy slimline ones.


    Mine's the one with the NetBook(c)(r) in the pocket.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    doesn't lots of hits for netbook mean it is generic?

    netbook && !(psion) matches 35,100,000

    netbook && psion matches 227,000 (and that's skewed because there are a lot of news articles relating to these stories)

    i.e. no one gives a shit about psion netbooks, most of us remember them as an 'oh yes, I'd forgotten about that'.

    It would be interesting to study the timeseries of these hit quantities and see when the && !psion overtook the && psion search, but I've got work to do.

    < Mine's the one with a time series analysis textbook in the pocket.

  23. thomas k.

    replacement name

    Since they're a "smaller, cheaper, less powerful" subset of laptops, why not call them lopped-offs?

  24. Steve

    2003/2006? And apparently that wasn't sufficient as a title.

    "Untrue? Yes, Intel maintains, because Psion discontinued its last Netbook, the Netbook Pro, in 2003, so it had not being using the trademark for five consecutive years up to late 2006 as claimed."

    But if they were still selling them in 2003, with 3 years warranty say, that would mean that they were still supporting/maintaining them until 2006. Surely that's enough?

    Usually I'm against companies expecting to get/keep a trademark on a generic word, but in this case 'netbook' wasn't a word until Psion created it.

    As for hoover as a generic word, I did hear once that James Dyson's dream was to hear someone in the street talking about 'dysoning the house' because it would show that his product had reached a certain level of market saturation to be that well known. No idea if it's true or not...


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    pot, meet kettle

    Watching this weaselfight, I just have to wonder whether Psion ever paid Joan Vinge for lifting *her* trademark, "Psion."

  26. Tom

    All you people backing Psion need to take two aspirin and post again in the morning.

    You'll notice I didn't put the (TM) behind aspirin, and not because I'm a freetard, but because I don't need to. Just like I don't need to put the TM behind Allen wrench either, although both were at one time Trademarks. Both terms entered into generic usage and both companies were found not to have defended their trademarks at the appropriate times. Psion made the same mistake with 'netbook'. Frankly, I've never thought Apple (either of them) should be able to Trademark their names or that Microsoft should have been able to Trademark (or Slogan mark, or whatever new legal fandangle they've come up with this week to say only one company can use this particular English word) Windows either, because all of these are generic words of the language. The lawsuits they've won defending them as trademarks are one the biggest abuses of law we've seen in the last century.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC "Joan Vinge"

    I hardly think Joan Vinge created words like Psion and Psionic, but when did she first publish something with the word 'Psion'?


    " if you do NOT activly defend a trademark you lose the protection of it."

    But that's what they're doing now. They can't sue the public or journalists for referring to these devices as netbooks but when the manufacturers start using the term instead of EEEPC then that's the time to act. Which is now.

    I like the term 'Laptots' too. These devices seem to be more popular with girlies, so that'll suit 'em down to the ground, innit. There could even be an aftermarket in changable fascias with baby clothing patterns. You'll hear nerdy women everywhere saying to their social group, 'just going to change baby' when what they mean is that they're popping off to put their EEEPC into blue and pink dots. Um, they can also rename 'charging' to 'feeding'. Big hit, easy.

  28. Stinky

    Put me down as 1 in 30 million

    If there is any money in it for my emotional distress, you can put me down as a person instigating one of the thirty million searches on "netbooks" and getting confused.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    But Netbook is still on the PSION site...

    Hmmm, on the Psion website, if you click on "Discontinued Products" you will find both the Psion Netbook Pro and the Psion Netpad. Surely if they are still on the website, it shows they are still using the name?

    Here is the link:

    would this constitute a reason for the patent to stand?

    (I'll get my coat, before someone throws it at me!)

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Psion didn't lie, Intel and Dell are lying

    The story (or Intel's claims) are very incorrect, as a cursory look online would show.

    "Psion discontinued its last Netbook, the Netbook Pro"

    Psion LAUNCHED this product in October 2003. It replaced the Netbook - it had more memory and a faster processor amongst other things. This product was still being sold in 2005 (there are articles online e.g., Ars, mentioning it as a new on-sale product). Therefore it's not outside the 5 year time limit, and it was also an on-going product in 2006 and thus Psion didn't lie.

    These two blatant lies by Intel and Dell will presumably make the decision go in Psion's favour regardless of the genericity claim, because the term has barely been used in anger since about a year ago, before that a whole mish-mash of terms were being used. Intel themselves pushed netbook. Anyway, even if the term is consumer-generic, Intel, Dell, etc, may be stopped from using it themselves.

  31. Nick

    @patent troll comments

    trademark != patent

  32. Neoc

    Re: Infringement @Bassey (and others)

    No, as I stated in a previous article's comment, one of the duties of a Trademark holder is to defend the trademark AS SOON AS A BREACH IS BROUGHT TO THEIR ATTENTION. In some jurisdiction, it gets worse - you have to prosecute breaches in the order in which you became aware of them. Joy.

    Point being, had Psion raised this broo-ha-ha 18 months ago when the term "netbook" first started being bandied about by the media and "netbook"-makers, I would have sided with Psion. The fact they waited 18 months (what, nobody in that company reads the industry news?) before raising a fuss - waited until "netbook" became entrenched in the public psyche, in fact - means that I see this as nothing more than a publicity stunt at best, or patent-troll-like behaviour at worst.

    Bottom line, Psion missed the Trademark boat by about 16 months - assuming 2 months to get their Legal Dept into gear.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    Psion (Potter Scientific Instruments) has been around since 1980

    Joan Vinge published Psion in 1982.

    End of story there....

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Psion should win this

    Here is why Psion should win this.

    The Netbook Pro was released in 2003. The best year of sales for that device (multi million dollars in both the EU and US) was in 2006. So whatever the case, 2006 it was alive and well and my view has shifted on this topic just due to that fact alone.

    Psion still sell the Netbook Pro device in 2009, even though the website says discontinued according to the statement on their website.

    The reason that Netbook is now becoming "generic" is because Intel introduced the term and pushed it hard in March 2008 onwards. Look at the documents Intel filed to the courts... the talk about how media used it but what they fail to point out is that all of these references follow on from their own annoucement that they were dubbing these new devices "netbooks" (Paul Bergaving - March 3rd 2008). So Intel caused the netbook trademark to get diluted.

    I agree with people saying that Psion should have acted sooner but there could be many reasons for that.

    So if Psion can defend these points then the cases will be dismissed.

    Heres the evidence to back my points:

    Psion - sales - sold in 2006 and even 2009!:

    Intel annoucement of new "category":

    Intel court docs - media references missing their own announcement in early March ;-):

    I just can't see how this can go any other way really. Its bad a corporation the size of intel or can push a small company like Psion around and assert their rights to a registered trademark! Its totally wrong and I hope Psion win out this case.

    My guess is Psion is readying a new Netbook device to compete and maybe aligned with amd or something.

  35. James Pickett


    Results for google search on 'netbook' = 36.1 million

    Results for google search on 'psion netbook' = 256,000

    So over 35.8m results for the term do not mention Psion. That looks pretty generic to me...

  36. BioTube


    Who calls kleenex "facial tissue"? Manufacturers. Here, everything's "coke", cola or not. But does Coca Cola, inc. get to keep its trademark? You betcha. Granted, Psion discontinued its Netbook line, but not that long ago. Since you can't prosecute the general public, you have to wait for a maker to claim the trademark before you can protect it legally(otherwise you're limited to PR campaigns). If they can prove Intel pushed "netbook", then their case is already won. Even if they can't, however, they stand a decent chance, considering how recently netbook's become the common term. They should definitely be prepared to launch a Netbook-branded product soonest, however.

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