Mar 18 AT 4:13 PM Ian Wheat 5 Comments

Roundup: A Tale of Two Android Trademarks

This week has seen two interesting stories about Android and trademarks: Google being denied it’s trademark application on the name Nexus One, and Samsung trademarking the term Android, in reference to hardware, and only in South Korea.

Google Can’t Trademark “Nexus One” Name

First up: the Nexus One. In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, don’t panic. Google has been denied its application to trademark the term Nexus One by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but what does this mean for Google? Well, MobileCrunch speculates that Google will probably pay what is essentially a settlement and make a deal with Integra Communications, current holder of the trademark on the term “Nexus,” a convergence of voice and data communications. MobileCrunch also points out that it is not the job of the USPTO to determine product or brand superiority, but merely to determine if a trademark application could be confused with an existing trademarked name.

True, it’s just speculation that Google and Integra will make a back-room deal or agree to be cozy neighbors, but odds are that something as small as a denied trademark application could keep Google from branding their flagship superphone as “Nexus One.”

Samsung Trademarks “Android” in Korea

Second, we have Samsung trademarking the term Android in Korea. According to Engadget, South Korea has two separate trademark systems–one for software and another for hardware. Thus Samsung has been able to cut off access to marketing Android-based phones in Korea by their operating system name. Imagine going to your favorite T-Mobile or Sprint store and seeing the “HTC Hero” or “Motorola CLIQ XT” but no mention of Android, and probably no little Andy to greet you.

While we weren’t panicking about Google’s trademark problems, this issue merits a bit more of a response. True, it doesn’t affect most AAM readers, but then again companies like LG and Samsung have a strong presence in South Korea, so this may have an impact on their sales and marketing within their proverbial back yards.

It goes further than that, too. This could be viewed as proof that the United States patent and trademark system isn’t the only struggling with trademarks and  patents granted for nebulous and non-specific terms and products. The precedent set here, and in several recent patent cases in the U.S., is that if you can put up a brick wall around your products and services, you won’t have to deal with competition.

As a long time fanatic for open source software and operating systems, Ian Wheat naturally fell for the little green Android. They live together quite happily, with Ian's wife, in Roanoke, TX, and spend many hours together writing about technology, watching funny television shows, and killing zombies in Left4Dead2.

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  • http://Website mac

    i dont think android will have any problems in korea… since the trademark is only for harware, a phone could be called.. G1 with android.. G1 refering to the hardware and android to the software.. just my toughts

  • http://Website RR

    The denied “Nexus One” trademark absolutely does not mean they can’t use it. It simply means that they are not the only ones who can use that brand. However there is a possibility that Integra could attempt to go after Google for using it, like the Phillip K. Dick heirs did back in the day. Integra would have better chance, since they do actually have a trademark. But still, it’s unlikely that they will bother, since there has been no action so far. Google would only bother to settle if Integra wished to pursue this.

    And as for Samsung’s hardware trademark in South Korea, on the word “Android”… you’re giving them credit for way more power than this would provide. Basically the only thing this means is that another manufacturer could not use Android in the name for a product, or a similar bit (Andro being the example in the linked article, but even that is only a possible problem. A court would have to decide that one). Any manufacturer can certainly say that their product is built with Android, runs the Android OS, they can mention Android all they want (as long as it is not in the product name), and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with Andy.

  • http://Website Haggie

    Somewhere in the Googleplex there is an attorney drafting language in the Android partner agreement that precludes any Android partner from registering Android or any variant thereof in any market in any country and that any current registrations for Android must be forfeited to Google.

    Samsung needs Android software much more than Google needs Samsung as a phone partner so the ultimate outcome of this is somewhat predictable.

  • http://Website Patrick O’Leary

    “…but odds are that something as small as a denied trademark application could keep Google from branding their flagship superphone as ‘Nexus One.’”

    Should this say “…odds are slim…” or similar? Or am I missing something.

  • http://www.thetrademarkcompany.com The Trademark Company

    Following on the heels of their China / Baidu issues I think Google should take this as a strong indication that if they want expand their services and brands into Asia they need to re-think their global strategy and/or bring on department members which can avert such issues in the future so they can tap the next major emerging market.