Cloud Computing - the Latest IP Land Grab

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 04, 2008

The term "cloud computing" has been well-used recently; it comes up frequently on OStatic. If you've started to think of this as a common term, you may be surprised to know that Dell has actually trademarked the term (as first noted on the Google Groups cloud computing group by Sam Johnston). While not quite as obnoxious as attempts to lock up software art by patent or other means, this move seems unlikely to win Dell any fans.

Poking around Dell's site, it's quite clear that they are using and intend to claim the trademark. For example, here's a bit from one of their case studies: "DellTM  DCS, through the Cloud ComputingTM  Solution, worked with" And sure enough, if you search the TESS records for "cloud computing" you can find their claims. The extensive list of services for which Dell claims this as a trademark include

design and development of networks for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others

That would seem to cover most of the contemporary uses of the word.

 The USPTO allowed the application, which means (as far as I can tell) that Dell in fact does own the term. All they need to do now is provide an example of it in use and they've got a registered trademark. That doesn't mean it's theirs forever; if they actually intend to enforce this, they could be challenged with evidence of prior use, which appears to be plentiful.

The larger question is why Dell felt a need to copyright such a term? My guess is that it was just the normal grinding away of corporate attorneys looking to protect the brand of their Dell Cloud Computing Solutions brand. But now that it's been drawn to their attention, let's hope they do the right thing and just quietly abandon this one.