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Rumor Mill: HP cuts bon voyage funds

In the latest layoffs, workers received severance packages worth approximately one-third of those offered in the previous round, sources say.

NEW YORK--Having waited in line for seven hours to see "The Producers," and having waited a comparable amount of time to see Meryl Streep in "The Seagull" this past weekend, I sometimes cause my friends and family to suspect that I enjoy the theater.

But the truth of the matter is I just like the lines. Meeting people online is passé--in the new millennium we will all meet people in line. I may work on the Web, but in my private life I'm a people-in-person person.

Hewlett-Packard executives are people people, and once touted a people-first ethic supposed to value employees more than any other asset. The sharp slowdown in the tech sector hasn't nullified the vaunted "HP way," but it has employees suspecting they're worth less than they once were.

Two-thirds less, to be precise.

According to Skinformants, the 6,000 HP workers who got pink slips during the most recent round of layoffs received severance packages worth approximately one-third of those offered to employees laid off in a downsizing campaign announced in January.

Skinsiders say the newest alums of CEO Carly Fiorina's ax--who begin packing their office belongings this week--are also bound to a clause forbidding them from doing contract work for HP for a year. That's twice as long as the six-month waiting period imposed on workers who were knifed in the winter.

Some RealGood news
RealNames, the Network Solutions wannabe that has known its share of woe, flat-out denied rumors circulating on various dot-com deadpools of the sale of the company to VeriSign for "pennies on the dollar" and the imminent departure of its COO.

"She assures me it isn't true," said CEO Keith Teare of COO Terri Holbrooke, with whom he'd just hung up when the Rumor Mill called. "And the broader rumor about VeriSign is total, total (b.s.). Maybe the scoop is that F*** is losing its edge. Maybe someone should give them a taste of their own medicine."

Duly noted.

AOL on dragon trademark defensive
The Rumor Mill's keen interest in trademark spats was piqued this week by the lovers' quarrel between AOL Time Warner and open-source toolmaker ActiveState, a close partner with the AOL-backed

The trouble arose when AOL unit Netscape, whose "Mozilla" and "Gecko" marks amply demonstrate its fondness for lizards large and small, code-named its up-and-coming browser project Komodo. That particular reptile happens to be an ActiveState trademark.

"We had a healthy discussion with some of the Netscape people," said ActiveState CEO Dick Hardt. "They don't have a Komodo product. So we said, 'Quit talking about it, because you're confusing people.' The people we're working with at the Mozilla group are unhappy that the mother ship is doing this. We talked to them more than a year ago."

A Netscape representative said ActiveState's Komodo didn't have a claw to stand on.

"We are only using Komodo as a code name," said the Netscape rep. "Since trademarks are symbols and/or words that are used in interstate commerce, internal code names are not considered trademark usage, and therefore, there would be no trademark infringement." Don't be a snake. Send me your rumors.