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.

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Companies: google, yahoo

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Comments on “Google, Yahoo Sued For Stealing Names From Tanzanian Tribes”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: 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:

Goldman got the documents from PACER.

ehrichweiss says:

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.

HippyRandall says:

lawl typos

“…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

Jangili says:

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.)

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Mike (profile) says:

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.

Jamie (user link) says:

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.

David says:


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…

anis hajji Abdullahi says:


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

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