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Google Trademarks a Computer Called the Speedbook [Update]

Last Updated Aug 25, 2010 6:02 PM EDT

While nosing around US Patent & Trademark Office databases, I came across something suggesting that Google (GOOG) plans more branded hardware. According to an application filed last week, though with a priority date of February 19, 2010, the company seeks a trademark on the term SPEEDBOOK for something in the category of "computer hardware."

Another search found a second application for the same term used in notebook computers and filed by China America Electronics Corp. Ltd.. However, the company abandoned the application last fall.

There have been rumors about a Google-branded Chrome OS netbook since last fall. Last month, CEO Eric Schmidt said in an interview with Telegraph of London that the company would probably not need to develop its own netbook with the as-yet-unreleased operating system, even though it partnered with HTC to create the financially disastrous Nexus One:
Would they consider a similar partnership to help get Chrome OS -- the cutdown operating system designed for lightweight computing -- off the ground? Schmidt says: "We've talked about it. We have a reference spec for Chrome OS, we have a couple of hardware partners all lined up and the open source is all out there. It's on schedule and it will happen later this year. Let's see how well those partners do first. My guess is we won't need to. The PC industry is different from the phone industry. The PC industry is used to working with Microsoft, whereas the mobile industry was not used to working with software."
All that may be true, but notice that Google filed the trademark application after this exchange. Unlike a patent application, which a company doesn't need to embody in a product to obtain and own, a trademark requires an explicit link to a product or service. It may not have yet come out -- just as Apple filed for a trademark on the iPad before the product shipped -- but it must ship in the reasonably near future, and it would make no sense for Google to obtain the name just to turn it over to a hardware partner.

It seems like strong evidence that either Google plans to release some kind of portable computer -- maybe a tablet, which would technically be different from a netbook, or something running Android rather than Chrome OS -- or is indulging in some industrial misdirection. But, in the musing, let's not forget Google's acquisition of the stealth hardware company Agnilux. It could be an interesting next few months.

[Update: I had considered whether this might refer to the speed scanning system for which Google had filed a patent. The Trademarkia blog pegged trademark application as a "reading/recording software application" and it could refer to the patent application filed in 2004 and granted in March 2004 (given that the trademark application looked for a February 19, 2010 priority date, but I'm not convinced.]

Related: Image: RGBStock.com user lusi, site standard license. Photo editing: Erik Sherman.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.