3Com, makers of the popular Palm Pilot personal information manager (PIM), are considering suing Microsoft over its use of the word "palm" to name its new Palm PC PIM. The Palm PC, which bears a more than casual similarity to 3Com's device, was announced at Spring CES last week.

"It's one thing to clone the product, but it's completely another to take the name and usurp the market demand we've created," said 3Com VP Ed Colligan. "They are trying to trade off someone else's success."

The Palm Pilot is so successful that a huge industry has grown to provide its users with add-on hardware and software. The product also has a gigantic marketshare lead over Microsoft's previous attempt at a handheld computer, the Windows CE-based Handheld PC. Handheld PCs, like the new Palm PC, are made by a variety of manufacturers. Microsoft makes only the OS, although they are also responsible for the names "Palm PC" and "Handheld PC" as well as most marketing for the new form factors.

Colligan says his company has been aware for some time that Microsoft would rip off the look and feel of the Palm Pilot, but they were amazed at CES to discover that the software giant was even stealing its name.

The only thing that surprised us was the name," he said. "We are considering all our \[legal\] options."

Microsoft says the naming issue is moot.

"It's a generic term like 'laptops'--computers that you use in your lap," said Roger Gulrajani, a group product manager for Windows CE at Microsoft. "Or 'handhelds'--computers that sit in your hands. Palm PCs sit in your palm."

Gulrajani also points out that Microsoft has not registered the name "Palm PC" as a trademark, meaning that anyone is free to use the term. 3Com may let a court decide