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Google Chromebooks Target Of Lawsuit

ChromiumPC maker accuses Google of deceiving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to stymie its trademark application.

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A week before Google's Chromebook computers are expected to reach retailers, Neveda-based intellectual property management company Isys Technologies is seeking to prevent Google's browser-based hardware from arriving on store shelves.

Isys says that it has been using the term "ChromiumPC" for computers released through its Xi3 subsidiary since 2009. Last week, it released its Xi3 ChromiumPC, which runs Google's Chrome OS. On Monday, it filed a lawsuit in Utah against Google and its Chrome OS partners, Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung for trademark infringement.

Isys claims that it applied for a trademark for the term in June 2010, that Google has been aware of its application since July 2010, and that Google has withheld information from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in an attempt to delay Isys's trademark application, which has received provisional approval.

The complaint states that Google filed a trademark for the term Chromium, told open source developers they could use the term, and then failed to live up to its obligation under trademark law to protect its trademark. Allowing developers to create software under the Chromium mark without attempting to verify the content, functionality, or stability, the complaint asserts, constitutes "a misleading and deceptive statement under oath of [Google's] intent to exclusively use the mark Chromium in connection with software."

Google originally sought to use the term "Speedbook" in conjunction with its Chrome OS hardware, the complaint says. It applied for the term in Tonga, which doesn't make its records publicly searchable, in February 2010, then applied in the U.S. in August 2010. The search company was granted the right to use Speedbook by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in October 2010, but in December of 2010 decided not to use the term and twice filed requests to extend the deadline to oppose Isys's ChromiumPC trademark application.

In May, Google sent a letter demanding that Isys cease using the ChromiumPC name.

"Google strategically timed delays relying upon extensions of time granted to permit Google to switch its brand name from Speedbbook to Chromebook in order to launch its ChromiumPC products while delaying the registration of Isys' trademark application for ChromiumPC," the complaint says.

Google declined to comment.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the sale of hardware bearing the Chromebook name, damages to be determined at trial, and an affirmation of Isys's right to the mark.

Eric Goldman, an associate professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, said in an email that the complaint seems fairly run-of-the-mill. "The most noteworthy thing is that Google started the fight by opposing Isys' trademark application in the Trademark Office," he said. "I don't have a good count of the trademark disputes Google has initiated, but it has been fairly restrained about enforcing its trademark rights. The trademark interests in Chromium as an open source project bring to mind the bruising 1990s battles over 'Java' and what was Java-compliant."

Google on Tuesday introduced Chrome 12 as a stable release. The Chrome browser is the core of Chrome OS, Google's browser-based operating system. The first Chromebooks are expected to be released next week, on June 15. Chromium is the name of the open source projects behind Chrome OS and the Chrome browser.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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