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.