Poor internal communication between the people talking with Comodo and the decisionmakers? Not wanting to give the time of day to the competition, lest they avoiding wasting their time and resources? Deferring committing to the decision until the last moment, in case they change their mind? I can buy it.
> it is my impression that Comodo could simply have opted to continue the process, but is pretending that they wouldn't have in order to avoid bad press.
Based on my (non-lawyer) understanding, a trademark application sounds very much like "not a trademark", and an application that Comodo would eventually lose thanks to clear and conflicting objections from the people actually using the term. I don't think they could've continued indefinitely. I think they would have eventually dropped the process, if only through inaction by allowing the application to expire. I can buy that they were at the point where they were planning internally to drop the process.
Not out of any noble reasons, mind you - they'd have dropped it earlier, I think, if those were the cause. Filing in the first place may have been an act of bad faith. It's just not in Comodo's best interests to not fight a loosing battle to the point that it looses them the war, so to speak. Although it might be a bit late for that.