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Dell trying to trademark cloud computing

August 3rd, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in cloud computing, Multicore Computation Center, Semantic Web, Social media

Cloud computing is a hot topic this year, with IBM, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Intel, HP and Amazon all offering, using or developing high-end computing services typically described as “cloud computing”. We’ve started using it in our lab, like many research groups, via the Hadoop software framework and Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud services.

Bill Poser notes in a post (Trademark Insanity) on Language Log that Dell as applied for a trademark on the term “cloud computing”.

It’s bad enough that we have to deal with struggles over the use of trademarks that have become generic terms, like “Xerox” and “Coke”, and trademarks that were already generic terms among specialists, such as “Windows”, but a new low in trademarking has been reached by the joint efforts of Dell and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Cyndy Aleo-Carreira reports that Dell has applied for a trademark on the term “cloud computing”. The opposition period has already passed and a notice of allowance has been issued. That means that it is very likely that the application will soon receive final approval.

It’s clear, at least to me, that ‘cloud computing’ has become a generic term in general use for “data centers and mega-scale computing environments” that make it easy to dynamically focus a large number of computers on a computing task. It would be a shame to have one company claim it as a trademark. On Wikipedia a redirect for the Cloud Computing page was created several weeks before Dell’s USPTO application. A Google search produces many uses of cloud computing in news articles before 2007, although it’s clear that it’s use didn’t take off until mid 2007.

An examination of a Google Trends map shows that searches for ‘cloud computing’ (blue) began in September 2007 and have increased steadily, eclipsing searches for related terms like Hadoop, ‘map reduce’ and EC2 over the past ten months.

Here’s a document giving the current status of Dell’s trademark application, (USPTO #77139082) which was submitted on March 23, 2007. According to the Wikipedia article on cloud computing, Dell

“… must file a ‘Statement of Use’ or ‘Extension Request’ within 6 months (by January 8, 2009) in order to proceed to registration, and thereafter must enforce the trademark to prevent removal for ‘non-use’. This may be used to prevent other vendors (eg Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Yahoo) from offering certain products and services relating to data centers and mega-scale computing environments under the cloud computing moniker.”