Dell loses 'cloud computing' trademark bid

Dell loses 'cloud computing' trademark bid

Summary: The US Patent and Trademark Office has given Dell a further six months to justify any award of a trademark for the term 'cloud computing'

TOPICS: Networking

Following discussions with the US Patent and Trademark Office, Dell last week lost the right to hold the trademark for the term 'cloud computing'. However, the company was also allowed six months to try and convince the Patent and Trademark Office that the trademark should be granted.

Dell received a preliminary notice on 8 July saying the company could have the trademark, but the notice was withdrawn on 7 August. On Tuesday, Dell was denied the trademark on the term, but was also offered the opportunity to provide more information to deal with the specific objections raised by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The company has been given six months to provide all the information it wishes, for the PTO's consideration.

The PTO said in its statement that the "registration is refused because the applied-for mark merely describes a feature and characteristic of applicant's services". In other words, as cloud-computing consultant Sam Johnston said in his blog on Friday, Dell failed in its application because the patent officers understood cloud computing to be a simple, generic concept.

"A mark is merely descriptive if it describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the specified services," Johnston wrote in his blog. "That is, 'cloud computing' simply describes a type of computing in the same way that 'yellow bananas' describes a (common) type of banana."

Dell has been pursuing the trademark of the term 'cloud computing' as it applied to the "custom manufacture of computer hardware for use in datacentres and mega-scale computing environments for others" and "design of computer hardware for use in datacentres and mega-scale computing environments".

Dell did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication of this article.

Topic: Networking


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

    One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. A third is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like "revolutionary" and "innovative" on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel ... and often poor copies at that.

    A good example is all the latest buzz about "Cloud Computing" in general and "SaaS" (software as a service) in particular:

    Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they're actually referring to by "the cloud" is a large-scale and often remotely and/or centrally managed hardware platform. We have had those since the dawn of automated IT. IBM calls them "mainframes":

    The only innovation offered by today's cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that's not original. Anyone remember Datapoint's ARCnet, or DEC's VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway...?

    And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society's oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the "service bureau". And I don't mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled "Service 2.0" by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:

    Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable part of the IEEE's "Annals of the History of Computing":

    So ... for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a fifty-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

    1. "Mainframe" is now "Cloud" (with concomitant ethereal substance).

    2. "Terminal" is now "Web Browser" (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

    3. "Service Bureau" is now "Saas" (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

    4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

    Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida
  • Not even THAT is the cloud

    I agree with teh overall sentiment of what you say, but I dispute even your definition of cloud.

    I was drawing clouds 20 odd years ago in SNA networks that also had terminals (3270 & 5250) and mainframes (3090s & AS/400 - OK, a midrange but kind of the same thing) in them; the cloud was how you connected them if is used a transport outside of your SNA of Token Ring network (or ethernet if we are drawing the same diagram for DEC equipment). Back then, the cloud was mainly an X.25 network.

    Shoot forward 20 years and the terminals are web browsers, I agree, but the mainframes are now ASP/SaaS provider's datacentres. the cloud is JUST the internet.

    The only reason datacentres are being put in the cloud is so the people who run them have a whole raft of excuses if their service levels are poor, as Google's, Amazon's, GoToMeeting's and's have been at various times.

    Ian Hendry