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Google, 46 others sued over Android trademark

updated 12:10 pm EDT, Fri May 1, 2009

Google sued over Android

A software developer is seeking about $94 million in damages from Google and 46 other technology companies for their use of the term Android, which Google used to name its open-source operating system. According to a Thursday report, Erich Specht, who runs Android Data Corp. in Illinois, claims Google infringed on his trademark and is seeking an injunction on Android-branded products.

"Basically, it's a stolen name," says the software developers' lawyer, Martin Murphy. "It's our trademark, and Google is using it as if it's theirs."

In addition to Google, every company in the Open Handset Alliance is named as defendants as well. This includes but is not limited to Motorola, T-Mobile, Qualcomm, Samsung, Toshiba and Vodafone.

Google believes Specht's claims have no merit. Specht incorporated his business in 1998, before approaching the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in 2000 with the name Android Data. In 2002, his request was granted. Meanwhile, Google applied for the Android trademark in October of 2007. On the grounds that it was too close to Specht's trademark, the PTO rejected the application in February of 2008. Google appealed the decision, saying Specht's firm lost its claim because of inactivity.

Google's legal team sent a document that pointed out someone had voluntarily dissolved Android Data Corp in 2004 before reactivating it later but failing to re-register the website address. The PTO rejected that appeal from Google along with more attempts and suspended Google's trademark application in November.
The suit, filed on Tuesday with the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, was reportedly only filed recently because Specht only recently realized Google is infringing on his trademark. Specht believed Android was a phone, but as soon as he realized the name related to software, he took legal action.

The classification of the trademark is the key in the legal battle. Both Google's and Specht's are filed under International Class 009, which covers computer software and hardware. While Specht's trademark is Android Data, his lawyer argues Data is descriptive, and Android is the dominant word.
Specht and his lawyers need to prove people are likely to confuse the trademarks, with Murphy arguing that Google is hurting Specht's image by making the smaller company look like a copy-cat of the larger company.

Specht's Android Data specializes in software that helps websites perform data transfers securely and efficiently.

Murphy plans to file a temporary restraining order that could result in a preliminary injunction. This would have Google pull its Android-branded products from shelves -- currently the T-Mobile G1 handset -- and require them to be rebranded under a different name before they can be sold again. The lawyer also expects to get a court date in Illinois to file the injunction next week. He also believes a Google lawyer will show up to argue against the notion, which, if approved by the presiding judge, would give Google 60 days to respond.

It is believed the dispute will end up with a settlement because of the sheer number of companies involved. The terms of such a settlement could also involve Specht getting credit for the Android trademark in a disclaimer.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bonjour Rendezvous

    Well, it wouldn't be the first time that a MegaCorp has just tries to ride rough-shod over a smaller, less well known company. Google can't claim ignorance either. Hope the little guy wins, noting that he's not filing his case in Texas! Apple tried the same thing with the whole Rendezvous / Bonjour thing and ultimately lost!

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So Google never gained a trademark on the term Android, was always denied its claims, and even had its application suspended, and yet insisted on still using it?

    Oh, and they tried using the "they didn't re-register the web address" argument as a basis for saying the trademark was dropped? Really?

    Talk about just trying to run rough-shod over the little guy.

  1. carloblackmore

    Joined: Dec 1969


    it's only a word

    It's only a word - let's get real here. Until you achieve some sort of massive popular presence among a significant group/market no word can come close to defining your "image" in a way that can be hurt or deserves protecting. These infringement cases are really getting out of hand!

    In my opinion if corporations want the same rights as individuals then they should also accept the same identity limitations as individuals. A priest in Maine named "Father Mike" doesn't get to sue a priest in Nevada named "Father Mike" for infringing on his name or reputation.

  1. zooachtiv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    you cant trademark a word

    but you can trademark 2 or more words in combination.

    ie 'Remedy' is not trademark-able but 'Remedy with OlivamineŽ' is.

  1. Eldernorm

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The Trademark office recently granted a trademark to a group for the word "reality". So lets all get real here.... er maybe I should say a little less silly. :-)

    Just a thought about a stupid subject.


  1. martinX

    Joined: Dec 1969


    MS Excel

    Much like Microsoft was (is still?) required to refer to Excel as "Microsoft Excel" because of a trademark dispute, maybe Google will be required to refer to their phone OS as "Powered by Google Android OS" to differentiate their products. Their legal team fell down on this one. Actually, if they said "Powered by Google Android Systems" they could shorten it to "Powered by GAS".

  1. Daren

    Joined: Dec 1969


    So much for...

    ..."Do no evil"!

    Seems that particular corporate motto is dead.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Until you achieve some sort of massive popular presence among a significant group/market no word can come close to defining your "image" in a way that can be hurt or deserves protecting.

    Huh? Who defines 'significant'? The whole point of trademarking a name is so that you can build an image.

    you cant trademark a word...but you can trademark 2 or more words in combination.

    Really. And I thought the 'iPod' and 'iPhone' were single words. Or did you mean 'dictionary' words?

    And you can be sure Apple would sue anyone who tries to create a company named "apple software".

    But don't forget that even Google tried to get the name 'android' trademarked. But now I'm sure they'll argue that they should be able to use it because it is a 'common' word and trademark protection shouldn't apply.

  1. ggirton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Google can afford it

    Google can afford it. Pay up, Mr. Google!

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    of course

    The comment about "single words can't be trademarked" is bogus of course. Google was a word before it became a brand (before it became a verb). It would be ironic is google loses it's trademark protection because it loses is distinctive nature.

    "I googled you."
    "Oh you used the Google-brand search engine?"
    "Nah, I think I used MSN or something."

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