Lenovo ordered to stop use of 'smartbook'

update Chinese PC vendor served temporary restraining order against use of term in Germany and liable to pay fine of US$344,400 for each breach.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

update A German court on Thursday granted Smartbook AG a temporary restraining order against Lenovo that prohibits the Chinese PC maker from using the term "smartbook" in any commercial correspondence in Germany.

The order forbids Lenovo to, without prior approval from the German device maker, use the term in reference to its line of mobile computers, Smartbook AG said in a statement Thursday night.

Lenovo is liable to pay a penalty of up to 250,000 euros (US$344,400) for each incidence of breach, it added.

In a Smartbook AG site dedicated to explaining and defending the term, the German vendor said "smartbook" is an internationally registered trademark for mobile computer products it manufactures or distributes.

In the statement, Smartbook AG also warned other players it would continue to pursue the matter. "We will act against everyone who uses our trademark for mobile computer systems, as propagated by Qualcomm since June 2009. The company had obtained a similar restraining order against Qualcomm last September.

"We do not allow that our trademark, developed and actively implemented since 2001, will be damaged by someone else," Smartbook said.

When queried, a Lenovo executive confirmed on Friday the court order was issued.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, the Stuttgart-based spokesperson said the word "smartbook" was used "in a German introduction for a U.S. press release...to announce a series of products launched at CES (Consumer Electronics Show)".

The release, he said, has since been removed from the company's German site, and withdrawn from pressbox.de, an online service for companies to post media announcements.

"Since we don't have a product with the name "Smartbook"--only a product with the name Lenovo Skylight--we will not use this expression in any official communication in Germany," he added.

This is not the first case in recent years involving squabbles between industry players over the use of branding terms for new categories of PCs. Psion, a Canadian company that owned the "netbook" trademark, sent media organizations and manufacturers including Intel, cease-and-desist notices in late-2008. The company later entered into a settlement with Intel.

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