Dell, which had been attempting to trademark the term "cloud computing" for the company's own use, will now have to wait several weeks or months to claim the name as its own, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has decided to review the application.
On Aug. 7, the trademark office canceled its notice of allowance to Dell to own the name cloud computing. A notice of allowance is the last step a company needs from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure the legal rights to use a name on its products and as part of its business.
Dell had originally applied to trademark the phrase "cloud computing" in March 2007. The process had been ongoing for about 18 months; the trademark office published Dell's application in March and the notice of allowance followed in July. The issue went unnoticed until earlier the week of Aug. 4 when several blogs and articles noted Dell's application.
Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesperson, issued a statement saying Dell was aware of the latest decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but would have no further comment at this time.
The concept of cloud computing has potential for enterprise companies and those businesses involved in Web 2.0 commerce. While a good working model of the cloud is years away, the concept is to make large-scale computing more efficient by allowing an enterprise to offload some or all of its IT infrastructure to a hosting provider and then allowing it to draw on applications and computing on demand through the Internet.
In order to cash in on cloud computing first, vendors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and others are racing to show how their technology can be used to build and manage the type of large-scale data center needed for a cloud infrastructure. On the other side, Amazon.com, Google and Yahoo are all experimenting with their own cloud computing facilities to help run their Web businesses.
On Aug. 5, AT&T announced that it would offer its own utility and cloud computing service, which allows the carrier to offer its own brand of cloud computing to small businesses as well as enterprises.
Dell's attempt to trademark the cloud computing term seems to have stemmed from a March 2007 announcement the company made about new data center services that it would begin to start offering customers. At the time, Dell called this new part of its business the Dell Data Center Solutions Division.
It was not clear if Dell would have stopped other vendors from using the term cloud computing or wanted to use the name with its own set of services and products.
Now, it's not clear whether Dell will be able to trademark the name.
Cynthia Lynch, an administrator for trademark policy and procedure at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said it was unusual but not unheard of for the office to issue a notice of allowance and then cancel the allowance.
While Lynch said she could not discuss the specifics of any trademark application, she said in general that a notice of allowance would allow a company to register a trademark as its own and give the company a legal framework to protect the name.
In a case where the notice had been cancelled, Lynch said a staff attorney at her office would review the application, identify the problems with using the trademark name and then ask the company to respond to those concerns.
"It's certainly our goal to raise problems or issues prior to the [trademark] being published and a notice of allowance being issued," Lynch said.