The software giant’s attempt to trademark the term “cloud computing” has been the topic of lots of recent tech buzz. Cloud computing refers to a type of technology whereby software is accessed remotely by users who have no control over the infrastructure which supports the software. Both this infrastructure and the software itself can be updated, improved, and expanded upon, and the new software can be implemented immediately thanks to the Internet-based nature of the system; “The Cloud” is a long-standing nickname for the Internet in connection with this sort of setup.
Many participating in the discussion surrounding Dell’s attempt to trademark CLOUD COMPUTING decry the attempt, claiming that the term has been in wide use (though specific meanings of the term have varied somewhat) since at least the early 2000s. Such “genericness” of a term is grounds for a refusal to register it, because if the public has adopted a term as the sole way to describe something, it can’t be taken out of the public domain and monopolized by a single party. At least one other who isn’t concerned by Dell’s application disagrees, claiming that the term only came to widespread use in late 2007, and isn’t generic. Another point of contention amongst software companies is that Dell is by no means considered a leader in cloud computing development, and so its decision to attempt to control the term’s use is, in the eyes of some, a peculiar and presumptuous move.
Dell filed the application in March of 2007, asserting a bona fide intent to use the mark CLOUD COMPUTING in connection with:
“Custom manufacture of computer hardware for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others” in Class 040, and
“Design of computer hardware for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others; customization of computer hardware for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others; design and development of networks for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others; Consulting services for data centers and mega-scale computing environments in the fields of design, selection, implementation, customization and use of computer hardware and software systems for others; Consulting services for data centers and mega-scale computing environments in the fields of design, selection, implementation, customization and use of computer hardware and software systems for others” in Class 042.
After issuing one Office Action and considering Dell’s response, the PTO published the mark for opposition on April 15, 2008. Such publication is an opportunity for those who feel they might be damaged by the registration to file their grievances with the PTO. No oppositions were filed, so the PTO issued a Notice of Allowance on July 8, 2008. At that point, Dell simply needed to show that it was using the mark in commerce in connection with the services listed above.
A visit to www.dell.com/cloudcomputing suggests that Dell would be able to show use in commerce. But on Wednesday August 6th, before any Statement of Use was filed, the PTO cancelled the Notice of Allowance and returned the application to the examination phase. It’s unclear at this point why exactly the PTO has decided to cancel the Notice of Allowance – perhaps it is reconsidering its conclusion that the term is registerable.