January 09, 2015

Rebuilding a Brand: PALM to Rise Again?

Move over, iPhone and step aside, Blackberry. It looks like we are about to see the revival of the PALM brand for a wireless device. If you go to the www.mynewpalm.com website, you'll see this teaser:


I hadn't heard anything about Palm for years. I'd traded in my stylus for the convenient use of my fingertip. The PALM mark never quite went away â it slowly faded out of sight, but the trademark registration remained alive.

The big news is that Alcatel OneTouch, which is the mobile-device division of the large Chinese electronics company TCL, apparently intends to form a U.S. subsidiary to sell the devices under the Palm name. The Patent and Trademark Office shows an assignment of the PALM trademark registration from Palm, Inc. to a company called Wide Progress Global Limited, a British Virgin Islands company that evidently is some sort of subsidiary of TCL.

Wide Progress Global

Old-timers will recall the Palm Pilot as one of the early "personal digital assistants" â ancestors of today's smartphones that first appeared in the mid-1990s. Palm eventually dropped the "Pilot" part of the mark because of a dispute with the Pilot Pen folks. Over the years they sold various devices including the Treo and the Pre, and went through a multitude of corporate owners including U.S. Robotics, 3Com, and HP. Eventually the interest of the corporate owners seemed to have moved elsewhere and the line of devices petered out.

Palm Pilot Img 3389Bwcr
photo credit below**

Now along comes TCL, which seems to be pursuing a strategy familiar to anyone who frequents yard sales: let's see what I can get cheap that might be junk to its owner but is valuable to me. In the case of a trademark, even one that's dead in the water, it can be a lot cheaper to rebuild a brand that lots of people are familiar with than to start a new one from the ground up.

Using the TCL mark apparently wasn't attractive â have you heard of TCL before? Neither have I. I have heard of Alcatel, but that's about it. But Palm is a name I, and probably most Americans, know. So by buying up the mark, TCL instantly gets recognition. We'll have to wait and see what TCL can do with the brand, and whether it can take a name that now refers to "that device that's sitting in a box of dead electronics in the basement" and make it mean "that device that I just have to have." Will this be the next iPhone? Put a reminder in your PDA to check on it in a few months.

For the nostalgic, here's a 2006 television ad for a Palm device:

And in case Palm devices become the next hottest things, here's an old how-to on how to use them:

Finally, click here to see part of a talk to a class by one of the inventors of the Palm device: which is interesting in that it reminds us of how far we've come in about 20 years: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2248

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to contact us.

**Photo by Thomas Pihl, used under a Creative Commons license available here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode