For most of us, the term ‘smartbook’ (a device that’s somewhere in between a smartphone and a netbook) is nothing but the latest tech buzzword du jour. For German company Smartbook, however, it’s apparently a chance to score some free publicity by vigilantly defending a multinational trademark and threatening to sue everyone who dares use it in conversations.
Let me kick off by saying that Smartbook AG does indeed own a trademark on the word smartbook in most of Western Europe, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and a couple of other countries. The company sells laptops that are named Smartbook, so I guess the company is well within its rights to try and protect their trademark in any way it deems appropriate.
In the past, the company has gone after companies like Qualcomm and Freescale, who use the term as a generic denominator for portable Internet-ready devices that are neither smartphones or netbooks in product descriptions (and this dedicated website). That is understandable, and Qualcomm for one has already somewhat complied with the request by restricting access to some of its website for visitors located in Germany.
But Smartbook AG has also targeted media outlets who use the word generically to describe some next-generation devices. For instance, electronics industry newspaper EE Times has removed all references to the word, and even downright deleted an article that dealt with the legal threats put forward by Smartbook against the media company. Do a search and you’ll find some articles (including the one that has now disappeared, second result) referencing the term ‘smartbook’, but you won’t see the word mentioned in any article.
And the German company is growing more aggressive. Today, Sascha Pallenberg from blog and video publisher NetbookNews got in touch with us to let us know that he has recently received a letter from a German lawyer asking him to refrain from using the term ‘smartbook’ on his online network.
Now it appears the company is actively going to pursue international bloggers and press too, no longer limiting themselves to those in German-speaking countries (watch out, CNET!). And conveniently, exactly at the same time the company is announcing its international expansion. Add to that the fact that Steffen Wilde, Smartbook AG’s outside counsel, told a Forbes reporter that they’d be willing to sell the trademark (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and we can safely conclude that the small Cologne company is raising all this ruckus for attention and money.
And I realize we’re helping them with the former. Not very smartbook of us.