Philip K. Dick Estate Sends Google Cease And Desist Over Nexus One Name

from the money-grab dept

Last month, we noted that Philip K. Dick's daughter was quite upset about the fact (at the time, unconfirmed) that Google was going to call its new phone, the Nexus One -- insisting that this was a ripoff of the Nexus-6 robots from Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. It's difficult to see any legal basis whatsoever for the claim, but we wondered if Google might just choose a different name anyway. Instead, it launched with the Nexus One name, and it took little time for the Dick Estate's lawyers to send a cease & desist, claiming that it will sue Google for "trademark infringement." There are a few problems with that, of course. The Dick Estate does not have a trademark on Nexus anything. Nor could it get one since it does not use the term in commerce. Oh, and since the phone is in a totally different business, it likely wouldn't violate the trademark that the Dick Estate couldn't get anyway. So how does Dick's daughter respond?
"People don't get it," Isa Dick Hackett said. "It's the principle of it."
I'm trying to figure out just what "principle" that might be, because there doesn't seem to be any legal principle. It's hard to argue that there's any moral principle either, since "nexus" is a word that's been around since well before Philip K. Dick used it. In fact, the only matter of principle I can think of is the one where someone demands money for something where they clearly have no right to it and have done nothing to deserve it. Like demanding a big company pay up because it has a product named sorta similar to something your dad wrote decades ago.

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

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  1. icon
    Matt (profile), 7 Jan 2010 @ 11:39am

    Re: RE

    Both of your statements are just wrong, and your insulting tone is stupid.

    It is _not_ "stealing if you didn't come up with it." Look it up. "Stealing" is "the act of a person who steals." To "steal" is "to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force." There is no theft if no one owns it, because it is not "the property of another or others".

    I agree that "shear stupidity" is the reason for the "ownership structure we are stuck in now". In particular, idiots who can't see past their own nose have permitted evil or just self-serving jackasses to hijack human knowledge and creation in service of their own desire to make a buck. Gross.

    You are also wrong that "if google did C&D, there would be no case against them and no claim for money which by the way is actually the way almost all C&D cases resolve." Every part of this is false. If Google immediately ceased, their conduct prior to cessation would be just as actionable as if they did not. More than one company has faced a lawsuit for conduct even after that conduct ceased, in some cases long after. I agree that there would be no case against Google, but that would also be true if they did not cease: there is no case against Google now. To the degree there _is_ a case, Google's late-coming conduct can only stop the damages, not erase the damages already incurred. That would take a money payment.

    The most important and egregious factual mistake is your completely uninformed assertion that cessation of activity "is actually the way almost all C&D cases resolve." Codswallop. In most cases, the person who receives the C&D responds in some way. In many cases, that is with a strongly-worded letter by their lawyer. In many cases, the C&D-sender slinks off into the mud from which they came and sobs rather than incur the expense of litigation.

    The reasons for this are complex, but in short: lawyers may be willing to send the first C&D for a small payment, even though they will not take the case on a contingency fee (because the case is meritless). Plaintiffs are willing to pay for the C&D, because who knows what it will shake loose, but cannot or will not pay for their "principled" but meritless case. Thus, there was never any chance of the case being brought - the C&D was an empty and hollow threat.

    Of the cases that do not end this way, a substantial number end with a money payment from the party receiving the C&D to the person who sent it. Some of these are settlement payments - the recipient party determines that they actually owe money to the sending party, so they pay it to settle the matter up. Most of them are "nuisance" payments - the recipient party pays a small amount because it is cheaper and less distracting than litigating, even though they believe they could or would win the litigation.

    Daughter of Dick may be hoping for a nuisance payment, but I doubt it. I vote that it is not a money grab - Google will likely respond with a very strongly-worded letter, and rip her apart. She will not win money.

    I think the C&D is probably to publicize the wrong she feels has been done. She recognizes that she will never win a cent, but she is willing to pay some money to publicly harass Google and gain some public sympathy. If the publicity also helped to sell a few of her dad's books, that probably wouldn't be a bad thing either. In other words, this smells like the last, desperate move of a small, lonely little person.

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