Rich Warren: The dog days aren't over -- and the dog's for sale

How much is that doggie in the window? Recently, we narrated the sorry tale of RCA, which owned the Nipper dog trademark in North America. Recently, the HMV Corporation in Great Britain, which owned the Nipper trademark for the United Kingdom, turned paws to the sky.

HMV actually stood for "His Master's Voice," which is what Nipper heard pouring from the old Victrola horn. I named my first dog Nipper, even though he wasn't a Jack Russell terrier like the original Nipper. According to Business Week magazine, the demise of HMV means Nipper is up for sale and should fetch a considerable sum.

After writing about the convoluted ownership of the RCA name, I heard from an old friend, Pam Golden, president of GLA Communications, who handles public relations for fragments of RCA: "Just read your story that mentioned RCA and wanted to let you know that TCL has no involvement with the RCA brand anymore. You are correct that Technicolor owns the brand, but it licenses it to On Corporation for televisions. Digital Stream has the license for the mobile TV products including the tablet you discussed."

Nipper wouldn't even recognize his master's voice these days.

On the resurfacing of Kuro TVs

This reader email is almost as mysterious as who owns the RCA name, except it's about another iconic brand:

"The topic is the Pioneer Kuro TV. Apparently Pioneer held back some of the Kuro sets and is going to release them for sale in the near future (to certain stores).

"I came by this info from a reliable source in the Chicago-area who works for a high end electronics store. He said they are in talks with them on when and how many they will be getting and at what price they will sell at. If this does come to life, would this be something that should be entertained?"

Pioneer marketed the Kuro model for about four years, discontinuing the plasma set in 2010. Most critics agreed it was the best large-screen HDTV on the market at the time, significantly better than LCD sets and most competing plasma displays.

Unfortunately for Pioneer, LCD displays improved while prices plummeted. The few who acknowledged the impressive cinematic qualities of the Kuro could not support Pioneer, while the masses chose LCD models at half the price. Plasma sets also came with certain drawbacks such as high energy consumption and generating radio frequency noise.

Pioneer sold its Kuro patents to Panasonic, which also hired many of the engineers responsible for the Kuro. Panasonic was, and is, the only company vigorously marketing plasma TVs.

Samsung half-heartedly sells plasma sets at the low end of its line. Panasonic incorporated much of the Kuro technology in the high end of its Viera plasma TVs. In fact, Panasonic probably improved upon the Kuro sets of 2009, the last time Pioneer upgraded the line. After all, that Pioneer technology now is four years old, which is ancient in consumer electronics time.

I'd buy a new top-of-the-line Panasonic Viera plasma set before buying a three-year-old Kuro set that's been sitting in a warehouse. This black magic sudden reappearance of a very limited quantity of a product much beloved by the cognoscenti sounds like a way to profitably liquidate unsold inventory.

Customer service?

Readers may think that because I write this column I might receive preferential treatment from the cable company. I assure you that I receive the same incompetent, rude treatment that you experience. I recently bought a new cable modem that required authorization. This is one of the simplest tasks a tech support person can do, requiring typing a few lines of code into a computer. The Mediacom representative in the Philippines kept me on the phone almost half an hour (or it seemed like it) because she couldn't figure out how to do this and refused to transfer me to someone who could.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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