Ubiquitous search engine giant Google has been sued for allegedly stealing the name of its open-source Linux-based operating system Android.
According to various news reports across the Web, Erich Specht, the owner of Palatine, Ill.-based Android Data, a Web and e-commerce administration software developer, filed the suit against 47 organizations, including the Open Handset Alliance, T-Mobile, Intel and Toshiba.
Specht claims Google and others “stole first and asked questions later,” though a Google representative told technology news site Ars Technica that the suit, which demands nearly $100 million in damages, has no merit. “We plan to defend against them vigorously,” the spokesperson told Ars. Specht claims the parties sued are infringing on his company’s name, which was trademarked in 2002 after a two-year application process.
Google filed an application to have the Android name trademarked in October 2007, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the company in February 2008, saying that, because of the similar nature of Google’s and Android Data’s businesses (software and related applications), “consumers are likely to conclude that the goods are related and originate from a single source.”
After a slow start, Google’s Android operating system has begun to find success in the mobile market. The HTC Dream (also marketed as T-Mobile G1) and the HTC Magic, the successor to the Dream, have so far been the most successful deployments of the OS on smartphones: In late April Deutsche Telekom announced its stateside subsidiary, T-Mobile USA, sold 1 million G1 Android smartphones since the its debut six months ago.
Earlier in April, a report surfaced that T-Mobile is planning to move more of its communication devices over to Android, while companies such as Samsung and Hewlett-Packard recently revealed they are also looking at adopting Google’s open-source operating system for various mobile devices.
The 71-page complaint, which demands $2 million from each company listed, also requests the termination of any Android marketing materials and permanent enjoinment from using the trademark. “Basically, it’s a stolen name,” Specht’s attorney, Martin Murphy, said in an interview with Forbes. “It’s our trademark, and Google is using it as if it’s theirs.”
Murphy told Forbes that Specht put a lot of thought into choosing the name “Android” and feels Google is taking advantage of a small company that might not defend its trademark. The trademark only covers “Android” and not the full company name, making the trademark specific to a word Google has since marketed broadly in the mobile communications ecosystem. “[Specht] had heard about the Android phone, but thought, ‘That’s a mobile device,'” Murphy told Forbes. “As soon as he learned it was software, he stepped up, and we filed as fast as we could.”