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Google sued for 'stealing' Android name

Along with Vodafone, Intel, Nvidia, TI...

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Google and 47 other international corporations have been sued in a US District Court for trademark infringement over their use of the word "Android."

To Google, Android is the name of its open-source, Linux-based operating system for phones and mobile devices that it introduced in November of 2007.

To Erich Specht, a software developer and internet applications service provider in the Village of Palatine, Illinois, Android is the part of the name of his company, Android Data, for which he was granted a trademark in October of 2002 by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Google applied for a trademark for Android in October of 2007, but had that application denied in February of 2008.

The USPTO's reasoning for the denial was simple: Since both Google and Specht were involved in the development of software and related services, "consumers are likely to conclude that the goods are related and originate from a single source."

Google countered in August, claiming that the trademark Android Data hadn't been used for over three years, that the company has been dissolved for over four years, and that there couldn't be any confusion between the two names.

However, the USPTO said its decision was final.

Not to be deterred, Google tried again in November, asking that the trademark be suspended until further clarification of its use could be determined. The USPTO granted that suspension.

And now Specht, by filing his lawsuit this Tuesday, has removed all doubt that he wants to keep Android his and his alone.

Specht is not being shy. In addition to Google, the defendants cited in his 71-page filing include the Open Handset Alliance, China Mobile, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Vodafone, ARM, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Samsung, Toshiba, and Wind River - among others.

He's also not shy in his accusations. The suit contends that "it is clear that Google stole first and asked questions later."

After going into some detail as to the legitimacy of his use of the Android trademark in what Specht claims is an active business, the suit requests that the defendants be permanently enjoined from using the Android trademark and "deliver up for destruction" any marketing materials with the Android trademark.

And of course, there's a huge chunk of change involved. The suit requests $2m in damages for each use of the trademarked term by each defendant.

We smell a settlement. If Specht can prove - as his suit claims - that he is developing his original Android Data product while preparing to release additional products in the near future under the Android Data product mark, Google and its 47 co-defendants seem to be on shaky ground. A few million tossed to Specht might buy the trademark free and clear.

So it seems that Android wasn't merely the brainchild of The Simpsons's Comic Book Guy, whose shop, "The Android's Dungeon," has been a staple of Springfield commerce since the second season of the longest-running animated TV show in US history.

Instead, Android may be the smartest - or luckiest - idea that Erich Specht ever had. ®

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