Lawsuit forced 3Com to drop the "Pilot" in Palm Pilot

Have you ever wondered why the latest version of 3Com's PalmPilot is called the Palm III? Just ask the folks at Pilot Pen.

3Com has quietly reached an out-of-court settlement with US-based Pilot Pen, after the pen manufacturer sued 3Com for its use of the word "Pilot" in the name of its popular personal digital assistant (PDA), the companies confirmed yesterday.

As part of the settlement, 3Com agreed to refrain from using the word "Pilot" in future releases of the product, said Pilot Pen spokesperson Jim Plunkett.

"Palm agreed to rename the Pilot over time," confirmed Elizabeth Cardinale, a spokesperson for 3Com's Palm Computing division.

The latest version of the PalmPilot, announced earlier this month, is called Palm III, Cardinale noted. The two previous versions were the PalmPilot Personal Edition and the PalmPilot Professional Edition.

The settlement does not require 3Com to rename any of its previously released PalmPilot products, Cardinale said.

Besides ball point pens and fountain pens, Pilot Pen makes a line of styluses -- the soft-tipped pens used to enter data on touch sensitive screens such as those on a PDA.

Ironically, 3Com is currently suing Microsoft in Germany and Italy for Microsoft's use of the word "Palm" inMicrosoft's competing PDA, the Palm PC. 3Com claims the name is too close to that of its own product.

Pilot Pen's Plunkett said the companies agreed not to announce the settlement publicly, and both companies declined to offer many details about the suit. The suit was originally filed against U.S. Robotics, which developed the PalmPilot and was subsequently acquired by 3Com, Plunkett said.

Plunkett, who described the lawsuit as "ancient history", said Pilot Pen decided to sue 3Com because Pilot Pen "has spent a lot of money developing the Pilot brand name".

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