Google, Yahoo Sued For Stealing Names From Tanzanian Tribes

from the a-lawsuit-a-day dept

If you liked our report on the bizarre handwritten lawsuit against Google from a guy worried that his social security number was too similar to Google's name, here's another one for you. Once again, special thanks to Eric Goldman for passing this one on. This time, at least, most of the lawsuit is typed (there are some handwritten parts at the end), though, there are numerous typos. The lawsuit is being filed against both Google and Yahoo by a guy who is apparently being detained by Immigration services in Houston. He claims that both Google and Yahoo stole their names from Tanzanian tribes -- and now they should pay up. Specifically, he claims that Google took its name from the Gogo tribe and Yahoo took its name from the Yao tribe. Conveniently, this guy happens to be a descendant of both tribes. He's merely asking for both companies to pay $10,000 each to every member of both tribes, going back three generations. Simple!

While it is true that many companies are using foreign words (Swahili is especially popular) in choosing company and product names (Kijiji, Joomla, Renkoo, Wiki, Tafiti, Jambo, etc.), both Google and Yahoo have pretty well-documented histories of their names, and the names of these Tanzanian tribes clearly have nothing to do with either one. Not that the guy doesn't try: "The court is now been asked to answer a common sense question: Is "Google" much more related, semantically and lexically, with "Gogo" or with "Googol"?" Once again, the chance of this lawsuit getting anywhere is basically nil (even if they had taken their names from the tribes, which they clearly did not), but as Goldman points out to us: "There is, of course, a serious problem here about the courts getting clogged up with lawsuits brought by prisoners/detainees with too much time on their hands and nothing to do but file lawsuits, and companies having to spend money to stomp out these lawsuits." In the meantime, this seems mighty close to life imitating The Onion.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 7:40am

    As usual no need for techdirt to check things out and figure out if this is a hoax or not. It's so obviously believable lets just believel it !.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:04am

    google=10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 0,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    right?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    PALMYRA, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:07am

    Need we have to say more?

    "being detained by Immigration services in Houston"

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    PALMYRA, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:09am

    Re: Wrong

    "Googol" is the math term not Google.

     

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  5.  
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    KipEsquire, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:13am

    Are they also suing...

    ...the estate of Jonathan Swift?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    jprlk, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:17am

    and a googolplex

    is a 1 followed by a googol of zeroes, whereas a googleplex is (aparently) a cool place to work

     

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  7.  
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    TheDock22, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    Yea...I'm finding it hard to believe this lawsuit too. I searched for some more information on it and repeatedly get sent back to this blog or another blog talking about the TechDirt story. I think you got duped, or do you have a credible source talking about the lawsuit? I would like to read it if you have a link.

     

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  8.  
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    ehrichweiss, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 8:52am

    glad no one actually looked at the LAW

    Names aren't copyrightable, neither are titles. That's why we can have movies and books with the same name. Names can be trademarked but you have to have a specific idea to attach it to, hence I can create a company called AMD as a clothing manufacturer but not a manufacturer of microchips.

    If such a lawsuit were to ever succeed then you'd have every person with the last name of Jones suing Dow Jones, and every iteration of every name and anything that sounds close to them.

     

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  9.  
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    HippyRandall, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:14am

    lawl typos

    QUOTE: "...most of the lawsuit is typed (there are some handwritten parts at the end), though, there are numerous typos..." "...both companies to pay $10,000 each to ever member of both tribes, going back three generations..." Haha even you with your fancy spell check software can't keep from making typos. I LOVE this type of thing and just had to point it out. Ever member??? lawl

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    4-80-sicks, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:15am

    Re: #7

    Echoing this. With the Jayne case the filing could be found online elsewhere, but I can't find this one. Mike, from where did you or Eric Goldman obtain the document?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:22am

    wiki is not swahili.

    Uh... wiki came from a net shorthand term, "What I Know Is"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Rick, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:34am

    Re: wiki is not swahili.

    I always though wiki was Hawaiian: "Wiki Wiki is a reduplication of wiki, a Hawaiian-language word for fast. The word "wiki" (/wiːkiː wiːkiː/) is a shorter form of wiki wiki" From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Alex, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:36am

    Re: wiki is not swahili.

    Uh, no, wikiwiki is Hawaiian for "Fast"

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    retard, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:50am

    Re: wiki is not swahili.

    So What, Another Hilariously Idiotic Legal Issue.

     

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  15.  
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    Jeff, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 9:51am

    idea

    OK so Google is going to lose its name as we can all see(that's a given lol). so we as a community should help them come up with a new name. i vote Zork but maybe that's to small. Google needs help guys. also I'm collecting donations to help pay legal fees we don't want to see this corp. go under.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 10:36am

    Hmmm... No, the names are mathmatical and differen

    Let's see, Google is a perversion of a googol (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googol)

    And I am sure that the Yahooskin Band of the Snake Indians have a much more believable claim. (See http://www.klamathtribes.org/klamoya.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modoc )

    Don't see how he has a case.

     

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  17.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 25th, 2007 @ 11:06am

    Re:

    As usual no need for techdirt to check things out and figure out if this is a hoax or not. It's so obviously believable lets just believel it !.

    Eric Goldman is a respected law professor. The case is listed here:

    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/court-txsdce/case_no-4:2007cv03087/case_id-528177/

    Gold man got the documents from PACER.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    bob, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 11:21am

    Re: idea

    ya, $10,000 thats gonna really cut into googles prophets this quarter, they might have to cut back, maybe lay off a few people.

    ill donate $5

    I second zork!

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    David Shepard, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 11:40am

    Apology

    Gee, I wonder if Anonymous Coward and the other doubters of the veracity of this lawsuit will be apologizing to Mike and Eric. Perhaps they will simply slink away into cyberspace?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:01pm

    Re: wiki is not swahili.

    wiki is not swahili.

    I didn't say it was swahili. I said it came from a foreign word.

    Uh... wiki came from a net shorthand term, "What I Know Is"

    Actually, it came from the Hawaiian word for quick.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Apology

    The story is hard to believe - it's hard to believe someone would submit it, it's hard to believe the US legal system would waste much time with it, there is no reference to original material, the story doesn't explain who Eric Goldman is and it's very difficult to find corroborating evidence that this really is a real suit (perhaps it helps if you have a subscription to PACER).
    If this kind of stupid suit was really wasting significant court time you might expect to find references elsewhere.
    I think we can expect a higher standard from a blog that aspires to be some kind of tech reference point - no apology requried.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Apology

    I think we can expect a higher standard from a blog that aspires to be some kind of tech reference point - no apology requried.

    Nope. No apology required. Though, I find it amusing that you seem to hold us to some standard that we have not set for yourself. This particular story was amusing -- which is why I posted it.

    We have never aspired to be some kind of "tech reference point." We just post what we find interesting. End of story.

    In the meantime, part of what's nice about the site is that we allow for open comments, which lets folks like yourself ask questions and allows us to clarify. That's part of the process -- and it works. So not sure what the problem was here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    David Shepard, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:39pm

    Apology

    Perhaps the inclusion of the lawsuit should have been a clue to you coward. Particularly the fact that it had a case nunber at the top. Duh!! Case 4:07 CV 03087 U S District Court filed September 18, 2007. Perhaps you should read the entire post before commenting. Now, about that apology???

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Bestbloger, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 2:22pm

    Lets al sue

    I would like to sue google because all the letter from their name are in the same alphabet as my name. Coincidence? I think not! I want a billion from google!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Jamie, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 3:27pm

    How can you sue over a tribal name?

    Even if the names were identical, how can the guy sue? I would think anyone could use the names if they wanted to. Tribe/country names aren't copyrighted. So if I wanted to build a product and call it "English" or "American" I could. People who are English or American couldn't sue me for "stealing" their name.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Mack, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 3:34pm

    Damn! Now I'll never be able to sell these go-go boots on eBay.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    David Sternlight, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 4:44pm

    Suing people

    Perhaps I should sue the Chumash indians for a portion of their casino revenues, on grounds that they took their name from my holy book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    David, Sep 26th, 2007 @ 8:48am

    Lawsuit

    FYI: The complaint is typewritten. The Cert. of Service and Notice/Waiver of Service are handwritten most likely becuase when they showed up at the clerk's window and the clerk pointed out (undoubtedly while rolling his or her eyes)that they had forgotten to include them as is required by the Fed. Rules of Civ. Pro. So the clerk gives them the forms - which are not really fill-in-the blanks - and the brain trusts that drafted the complaint (or lackeys that brought it to the court) decided to write the Service docs out by hand.

    Ah, the legal sytem...you gotta love it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    ihano, Oct 2nd, 2007 @ 10:14pm

    Re: Re: wiki is not swahili.

    Wiki is a swahili word which means week.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Jangili, Oct 4th, 2007 @ 4:34am

    Re: Re: Re: wiki is not swahili.

    Yes. Wiki is Swahili for Week.
    I should know. Swahili is my first language and yes... I live in Tanzania too :) . Hypothetically if this thing goes through then Google would have lots of trouble paying the Gogo coz its a tribe consiting at least a million plus people. But the Gogo could do with the cash coz they are ''famous'' for producing the most beggars in the country. Joke is two out of every three beggars on the Streets of Tanzania are Gogo. No wonder everyone laughed at the decision to move the country's capital to Dodoma (the major town in the Gogo region).The Yao not very large tribe. There are more than 100 tribes in this country (last time I checked Tanzania had the most tribes in Africa and possibly the world.)

     

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  31.  
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    paddy, Jan 12th, 2008 @ 5:21pm

     

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  32.  
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    anis hajji Abdullahi, Feb 26th, 2008 @ 2:00am

    obologise

    Dear All

    I am very sory to put these companies into trouple during my search on Manyaza tribe in tanzania at the google and yahoo webs, the mistake happened indelibrately by me, so please help me with any kind of information relited to Manyaza and their sub clans in order to keep in touch with them as A tanzanian person .Iam looking for my manyaza people in tanzania sence I am Tanzania Origin In Somali whom his family stealt from some where in tanzania and I hope that they were used to sell in the slave trade for at least 1.5 cetury we are now a very big number of people living with the Somali and intermingled. I hope help from you. thanks alot with my best regards

    secerly yours

    Anis Hajji Abdulahi Somow Salimiin

    A Somali,Tanzanian Origin

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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