Intel to Psion: Nuh uh, you did NOT sell netbooks after 2003

And the shouting match between Intel and Psion continues. Psion, if you’ll remember is the company behind a series of ahead-of-their-time clamshell mini-computers. The last few products in Psion’s handheld PC lineup were called Netbooks. Late last year the company started threatening legal action to retailers, computer makers, and bloggers who were using the word “netbook” to refer to computers that hadn’t been produced by Psion.

Dell and Intel are two of the largest players to dispute Psion’s claims. They claim that Psion abandoned the term, that it’s become generic, and that Psion has fraudulently tried to hold onto the term even though it has stopped selling its Netbook and Netbook Pro computers. Earlier this month Psion filed court documents claiming that it is too selling Netbooks. Just not very many of them. And they’re all old stock. The company did stop producing them a few years back.

This week Intel flat out called Psion a liar. Intel filed a court document (PDF Link) that disputes the fact that Psion has sold any Netbook in the US after 2003. This is based on information on Psion’s website. And if it’s on the internet it must be true, right? Of course, it’s possible that Psion continued to sell the computers through brochures and direct sales to industry clients – which is basically what Psion already claimed. But it looks like Intel is trying to get Psion to prove its case by handing over more specific sales figures and other documents.

Now, here’s the interesting part. Intel admits that it has been using the term netbook generically — and denies the fact that Intel knew that the term was trademarked. Now, it’s true that Intel hasn’t been acting like it owns the trademark. “Netbook” is a word that’s been used to describe a wide variety of devices from many computer manufacturers, using different technology. While chip maker VIA tends to use the phrases “mini-notebook” or “mini-laptop” instead of netbook, many bloggers and journalists even refer to these machines as netbooks even though they don’t use Intel chips. But, I find it hard to believe that a company is big as Intel would have failed to do a simple trademark search before registering the netbook.com domain name. I’m not saying that anyone’s lying here. It just seems like a pretty big mistake to make.

Update: As SlashGear points out, Psion isn’t doing itself any favors here by putting the Netbook Pro on the company’s Discontinued Products page!

via Netbook Choice and Save The Netbooks

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    What fact are you claiming I left out or fabricated? I'm confused.

  • Mike

    If the term netbook was such a valueable asset to psion, who and what ever that is, why didn't they register the domain name? Rather stupid no?

  • Mike

    Sorry I forgot that this is a blog and facts are optional.

  • http://samj.net/ samj

    Brad,

    Your comments about Intel's potential culpability are interesting in that until now I've assumed that adoption of the term was organic, even within Intel. The first reference I know of is the Bloomberg article: Intel to Sell Chips for Laptops Priced as Low as $250 that quoted Uday Marty stating “the [Atom] processor will debut in computers called Netbooks by the middle of the year”. It was followed shortly by the Thoughts on Netbooks blog post on 3 March by Paul Bergevin. The netbook.com domain registration didn't happen until 24 September according to WHOIS.

    There's a fly in the ointment though because the Bloomberg quote is from a “marketing director” and the blog post is by the VP & GM of Intel’s Global Communication Group. One could argue that these guys should have known better, and perhaps they did. On the other hand one could be forgiven for not having made the connection to Psion…

    Sam

  • racasper

    I wish Psion would release a new model of their netBook.

  • http://samj.net/ samj

    Even if they did it likely wouldn't even fall in to the “netbook” category at 4-5x ($1,299) the price of your average netbook.

  • Had enough

    I think Don Henley summed up in “Get Over It”:
    “The more I think about it, old billy was right
    Lets kill all the lawyers, kill em tonight”

  • Mikez

    I have dealt with Intel on (other) I.P. subjects since the 8080 – -
    They checked, I would bet anything on that guess.

    Most likely in my mind, the recent filing is just to force fuller
    disclosure of the basis of Psion's claim of sales.

  • http://samj.net/ samj

    Well even if they did they could well have written it off as abandoned (though it would have been a stretch to claim genericide before they got to it and that's not what they've said in their filings thus far).

    It's true that they sought to speed up the discovery process (and bypass Psion in doing so), which would have been a great result given it would have allowed examination of their rather lofty claims. Unfortunately it wasn't allowed by the judge. The main filing though is their actual response to the counterclaim.

    Sam

  • John

    Cluthing at straws….

    The netbook pro was realesed in 2003 and sold till 2008… I know this for a fact…

    Also just a funny side, intel sold psion the CPU's for both…. StrongArm in the original netbook and xscale in the netbook pro. LOL.

  • Lee

    I have said before that I have never liked the term netbook anyway so at least to me Psion can have the name if they want it. What Psion needs to do is put up or shut up. If you want to lay claim to the name then come correct and roll out a brand new netbook. They COULD HAVE been one of the first to market with an new ARM processor and Linux/WinCE model freshened for 2009 specifications but no, instead they choose to whine about their past glories… and the fact that new companies are blazing a path where they tread a long time ago.

    Apple didn't have sour grapes over the Apple Newton did they? They just built new devices in other markets, even though other companies used their blueprint as a guideline for future success. And in the end, everybody won, no one whined like a Psion b-tch.

  • Linc (MonkeykIng)

    Coming at this from another angle, Psion is in a weird spot even if they kept selling devices they really did seem to stop using or favoring the term netbook long ago. At this point they are a medium sized company in a very nice 'niche' of hand computer hardware for warehouses and factory floors, so why stick their heads up now? The nail that sticks up get pounded down. Psion does not need the term, and they certainly don't need to be spending big buck on lawyers to protect it.

    Moreover we are seeing more and more companies switch over to other terms so Psion will be fighting this and laying out cash for lawyers on a term other companies are walking away from of their own accord. It is like Intel lured Psion in to this battle just as the rest of the industry is saying. “Meh, we need something better and up market anyway.”

  • http://www.p16blog.com/ kangas

    I don't know why people are hating on Psion here. It seems to me that they have a very simple goal, which is really not contrary to anything we end-users want.

    All Psion wants is for Intel or Dell to buy the trademark to the term “Netbook” from them. Full stop.

    Of course, Intel and Dell would rather pay their own lawyers to fight and possibly invalidate the trademark. So Psion then needs to show that they have been using and defending the terms, etc. Round and round it will go.

    Yes, I still have a dusty Psion 3a sitting somewhere at home. Neat machine. I wish to heck they hadn't discontinued their consumer hardware line, but Palm and WinCE ate their lunch in that era.

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  • ToniBorgetto

    I also find it rather hard to believe that Intel did not make a trademark search – Remember, this is the same company that has a history of vigorously going after anybody who even remotely looks like infringing on their own trademarks:
    http://www.snarkhunting.com/2003/04/intel-trade
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=

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  • jameswalsh

    Intel and Micro$oft are the kings of unfair business practices – now even Apple has fallen under Intel's spell. Is this the price of innovation? Their processors aren't even that good! People – don't run out and buy this. Instead – make the most of what you've got – try this http://tictacdo.com/ttd/Optimize-Your-Netbook There must be more than meets the eye – Intel has more than 85% of the mobile PC market share. Scary…

  • jameswalsh

    After they were forced to pay AMD $1.25 billion you'd think they'd lay off a bit… I guess they'd find some way to write that off – and get away with it.

  • jameswalsh

    After they were forced to pay AMD $1.25 billion you'd think they'd lay off a bit… I guess they'd find some way to write that off – and get away with it.