Robot Makers Redesign Robot After Google Refuses To Give Permission To Make Android-Style Bots

from the open-source? dept

So the folks over at “Be the Robot” decided to make a cute little robot that could be controlled via your mobile phone. Not surprisingly, they decided to launch the thing on Kickstarter. You might notice that the robot has some resemblance to the Android robot… but it’s not quite the same.

Why? Well, originally it was going to be designed as the Android robot… but then at the last minute, they realized that might be a legal issue. Even though Google encourages the use of the robot, it wasn’t clear if this was allowed. So the team delayed launching the Kickstarter campaign to go visit Google and to seek permission… where hilarity (and no actual answer) ensued:

Just after we had uploaded the complete project on Kickstarter and about to press the “Submit to the world button” …we started to second guess ourselves and wanted to know are we really allowed to do this?

After further investigations, as well as talking to a few lawyer friends, we discovered that the Google Bug Droid in 2D form and in printed materials is in fact Open Source, so anyone can stick it on posters and make cut outs. But there seemed to be a gray area regarding the issue of whether a 3D version is in fact allowed for resale. So instead of killing the project or possibly getting into legal issues, we thought it would be a good idea to meet with some higher-ups at the Google Android headquarters and hear what they had to say.

To make a long story short, at this meeting (during which we felt like we were on a reality TV show) the concept was well received, but there was not definitive answer as to “Yay” or “Nay”.

Not wanting to kill the project after having already put so much work into it, and to make sure we could launch without any issues; we redesigned the outside shell to have a different appearance, while maintaining the same internal integrity and design we developed in the BERO secret lair.

So, it’s sorta a little like the Android bot, but not quite, because no one could tell them definitively one way or the other if doing what they wanted to do was allowed. Isn’t permission culture just great?

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Companies: be the robot, google

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Comments on “Robot Makers Redesign Robot After Google Refuses To Give Permission To Make Android-Style Bots”

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22 Comments
nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s too bad not more detail is given about the conversation with Google, we don’t know who they talked to and whether that specific person/dept had any clue about how open source works.

Was it a case of a lawyer using strictly legalalese with them? “It’s Open Source, I do not have the authority or am in the position to tell you how to use the trademark”.

Was it some marketing drones? “Yeah your idea sounds great… no sorry we don’t know anything about Open Source… everyone here seems to like it but I don’t know whether it allows you to use it without permission”

Was it a designer? “Awesome, yeah go ahead and use it… Umm you should be OK but obviously I can’t speak for the company.”

My personal motto tends to be it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, but that’s only when money is not involved. OTOH a good lawyer should have been able to advise them on the use without the need to consult Google.

Let’s also not forget that it’s already being used in the wild and so far Google has not made any hints of moving to shut this stuff down:

http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/22758
http://www.khamtran.com/2010/08/andy-android-goes-to-phuket/
http://nexus404.com/2010/10/26/vodafone-australia-unleashes-man-sized-android-mascot-giant-andy-the-android-wandering-australian-streets-to-drum-up-support-for-android/
http://www.androidcentral.com/android-cooler-gets-made-we-want-one-our-next-party-video

Maybe with a little more research they could have attempted to reach this guy for some better advice :-
http://blog.dyzplastic.com/2010/02/android-mini-collectibles.html

I mean, I may be wrong, has anyone got examples of Google stomping on any of this great creativity?

Be The Robot (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Regarding the open source aspect…we actually talked to some people very high up that can make the decisions. The Open Source aspect wasn’t to use the bug droid shells, we just wanted to share how the APP works with people. From out research, the 2D is allowed and 3D isn’t.

As for the guy at dyzplastic…we approached him…not the friendliest response!

We actually wanted to make the bug droid for google and have it released into the wild!

Team BERO

Rekrul says:

So, it’s sorta a little like the Android bot, but not quite, because no one could tell them definitively one way or the other if doing what they wanted to do was allowed.

Google was waiting to see if it made money before suing them. After all, what’s the point of suing someone who doesn’t have lots of money for you to win in a settlement?

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sorry I should make that clearer:-

It’s only applying to “01/ Android Robot” which is the part they want to use – you can’t use the “Android” text trademark, but you can use the robot with attribution.

The page is aimed at developers but since they’re using CC it would apply to any use.

more info:
http://developer.android.com/distribute/googleplay/promote/brand.html

“Portions of this page are modifications based on work created and shared by the Android Open Source Project and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License.”

That would be enough for me to go ahead and use the robot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Open source

Don’t Open Source licenses generally have the caveat that you can’t sell anything containing whatever was under open source?

No. You can do pretty much anything you want with anything under an open source license (hence the name,) including redistributing and/or selling it under a different name as long as you provide the source code of what you used (for free) and a copy of the license.

Ninja (profile) says:

Google: We are delighted that you are willing to use the droid bot form on your project however the fact that copyright laws are so damn broken and the fact that we got the form from an Atari game that probably couldn’t do any better due to graphics restrictions and incidentally looked like R2D2 so Lucas could actually sue us and you into oblivion because of that. He could also kick the dead body of Atari in the process. So, uh, great project.

Anonymous Coward says:

Given the ubiquitouness of 3-D products in the marketplace, as well as no apparent inclination of the part of Google to do anything about them, I have to wonder why they even bothered to ask.

A commenter above noted the lack of any indication who it was these persons spoke to. If there is one thing that is a universal truth when dealing with large corporate entities, it is that nobody will ever make any decision if there is even the remotest possibility they may later be criticized.

Just my opinion, but their replacement looks much better than the original. It stands out from the me-too crowd.

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