Does Google Need Permission From Philip K. Dick's Estate For The Nexus One?

from the seems-a-bit-ridiculous dept

There's been plenty of buzz over the past few days about Google's alleged plans to offer a phone of its own design (built by HTC, potentially sold both directly and by T-Mobile, if not others), which has been dubbed the "Nexus One." I didn't write anything about it, because there didn't seem much to write about at this point. I'm always happy to see more competition in the market, though, and if the phone is really good, that's obviously a good thing. But one thing did catch my eye. The NY Times is noting that the name "Nexus One" appears to be a play on how Philip K. Dick named the replicants in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was subsequently turned into the still popular movie Blade Runner. In both stories, the replicants are "Nexus-6" devices, being the sixth generation of that type of robots. It's a fun little homage by Google and an obvious play on the fact that its operating system is called Android.

And yet... the estate of Philip K. Dick is not pleased. The article notes (surprisingly) that Motorola paid George Lucas for the rights to use "Droid" for its Android phone, but no one spoke to the Dick estate, who now claim they are "shocked and dismayed." Really? Shocked? Isa Dick Hackett, Philip's daughter is claiming:
"We were never consulted, no requests were made, and we didn't grant any sort of permissions."
Perhaps that's because Google doesn't need permission from you to do such a thing. Of course, since Google hasn't made any official announcement on this, there's still a good chance they could change the name, just to avoid having to deal with an angry and misguided family member who doesn't like the idea of anyone paying tribute to her father without first paying up. You have to imagine there must be some other science fiction author out there who would be thrilled to have Google promoting his or her work, rather than whining about getting permission (i.e., "payment") for the use of a name.

Filed Under: nexus one, philip k. dick
Companies: google


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  1. icon
    Paul (profile), 16 Dec 2009 @ 9:12am

    To be fair....

    To those slamming the attitude of entitlement on the part of the Philip K. Dick (PKD) Estate.... I don't like the law, but under the law as it is likely to be interpreted, they have a case. In as far as public opinion goes (the PKD Estate is the little guy and Google is big and rich), the PKD Estate has the advantage.

    Don't be surprised if Google rolls over and licenses the term, or uses a different name for the phone when it ships.

    What needs to change is the law on copyright, trademarks, and fair use. But as long as we are in the current legal muddle, an organization that makes its money off royalties and license fees is going to do its job when the opportunities present themselves. Otherwise, they are not doing their job. The PKD Estate is doing its job, even if many of us would like that job to go the way of the Dodo.

    I doubt anything will be done during Obama's term on IP reform. And if he gets re-elected, not for another four years past that. Not if the Bidden/Hollywood meetings of all the "effected shareholders" are any indication.

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