Google "Stole First and Asked Questions Later"

Published on May 4, 2009
by John Paczkowski

star-trek-datajpgTough break for Google. An Illinois software developer has sued the company, along with some four dozen others, alleging that they infringed his trademark for the word “android.” Seems Erich Specht, who runs Android Data Corporation, holds the mark on the term “Android Data” (too… many Star Trek puns… can’t handle… shutting dow…). He registered it in 2000 and when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved it in 2002, it specifically noted “android,” not “data,” which was far too widely used, as the dominant word in the trademark.

In 2007, Google (GOOG) applied for its own mark on Android, the name for its open-source mobile phone operating system, and was rejected on the grounds that it was too similar to Specht’s. Google went ahead and debuted the OS with the Android name anyway, and now Specht is suing the company. In a complaint filed in a Chicago federal court, Specht claims that Google’s use of the term will deceive and confuse customers. He asks the court to bar Google from using the name and demands $2 million in damages for its misstep. Google, says Specht, “stole first and asked questions later.”

Google, for its part, disagrees. The company clearly views the suit as opportunistic and says it has no intention of paying that $2 million penalty. It says the trademark, Android Data, hasn’t been used in at least three years and that Android Data Corporation has been dissolved. It argues there can be no confusion between the two names. “We believe the claims are without merit and we plan on defending them vigorously,” a spokesperson said. “We have no interest in settling this case.”

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