Intel moves against Psion for 'Netbook' trademark

In legal filing, Intel is asking for a decision clarifying that "the use of 'netbook' does not infringe anyone's rights."

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Intel has filed for a declaratory judgment against Psion Teklogix in order to continue using the term "Netbook" generically. The legal filing also revealed, as a separate matter, that Google would prohibit search advertisements that include the term "netbook."

Psion Series 5 was launched in 1997
Psion Series 5 was launched in 1997 Psion

What's the difference between a Netbook and a notebook? More than the design, according to Psion Teklogix.

Psion "purports to be the owner of U.S. Trademark Registration No. 2404976 issued on November 21, 2000 for the mark Netbook for use in connection with laptop computer," according to an Intel legal filing in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Not surprisingly Intel and others, including Dell, don't agree.

"Our view is that the term 'netbook' is a widely used generic term that describes a class of affordable computing devices, much like the term 'notebook' or 'ultra-mobile PC,'" Intel said in a statement Wednesday.

Intel continued: "In order to continue to use the generic term 'netbook' we filed the case. We're asking for a decision to clarify that the use of 'netbook' does not infringe anyone's rights."

Psion Teklogix, which describes itself as a "provider of mobile computing solutions," has been sending cease-and-desist letters to manufacturers, retailers, bloggers and others since December claiming the trademark. Before it became Psion Teklogix, Psion PLC made handheld "organizers" in the 1990s whose tiny clamshell design resembled the smallest Netbooks offered today by Asus or clamshell mobile Internet devices (MIDs) offered by companies like Compal and OQO (see photo).

Part of the Intel counter-claim is that the chipmaker believes that Psion did not use the Netbook trademark on laptop computers for five consecutive years following the date of registration in 2000--apparently a legal requirement. Mostly because Psion's mobile computers did not succeed in the market and were discontinued, according to Intel.

Intel cited a letter in its suit from Psion's legal counsel that asserted that "Intel aided, abetted and otherwise induced manufacturers and retailers" to "use the term 'netbook.'"

The Intel suit for a declaratory judgment also cited the fact that Google informed Intel that it "would prohibit all advertisements that include the term 'netbook' in the ad text." This was the result of a legal action by Psion against Google that "had the immediate effect of effectively ending Intel's (and all others') ability to advertise the netbook category of computers via search engine marketing."