Dell's Trademark for 'Cloud Computing' Raises Ire

By Andy Patrizio

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Netizens have uncovered a Dell trademark for the term "cloud computing," uncorking fears of another attempt at co-opting a popular industry term. In 2006, for example, CMP Media and publisher Tim O'Reilly acquired a service mark for the popular term "Web 2.0," then tried to enforce it with a cease and desist letter to an Irish trade show. CMP backed off after a huge backlash on the Internet.

Like O'Reilly, which was trying to protect its own trade property, the Web 2.0 Summit, Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) said its goal is to clearly define a part of its product line called Cloud Computing Solution

The trademark filing was made on March 23, 2007, but attention to the trademark didn't come until last week, when Sam Johnston, a European technologist based in Paris, first posted on the subject to a Cloud Computing group on Google Groups.

Johnston noticed the "TM" being used in Dell press materials and did a little poking around in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Web site. Sure enough, "cloud computing" was registered to Dell.

Not surprisingly, this is causing an uproar on places like Slashdot and other online sites where Johnston posted.

A prior trademark had been awarded to NetCentric Corp., a defunct telecommunications firm, in 1997. That trademark is now expired, as is NetCentric.

Dell's basis for the trademark is the Cloud Computing Solution, which it announced in March 2007. The trademark application was filed soon after.

"At that time, the term ["cloud computing"] was not a common one and Dell wanted to protect it as it applied to our offering. So, we made application to register the trademark," said Dell spokesman Jess Blackburn in an e-mail sent to InternetNews.com.

The time period to object to the trademark has since expired. "We now have six months to file our statement of use for the trademark, and will decide what we will do during that time," said Blackburn. "We have and will continue to conduct appropriate due diligence around adoption and use of this trademark to ensure we do not infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property."

He went on to say that "A registered trademark on this term would not give Dell the exclusive use of it. It would protect us from others using the term specifically as it relates to our solution."