Philip K. Dick's Estate Accuses Google of Stealing "Android" and "Nexus" Names

Last Updated Jan 6, 2010 4:29 PM EST

Oops!

Google's "Android" and "Nexus One" sound like great product names, but were they stolen from the late author Philip Dick's novel that resulted in the hit film, Blade Runner?

That is the allegation being brought by Dick's estate, which says that Google appropriated the names from Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and that it will therefore be filing a lawsuit against Google (GOOG) for copyright infringement.

"We feel this is a clear infringement of our intellectual-property rights," Isa Dick Hackett, a daughter of Mr. Dick and the chief executive of Electric Shepherd Productions, told the Wall Street Journal.

The search giant introduced its new touch-screen handset "superphone," Nexus One yesterday as a direct competitor to Apple's wildly successful iPhone. It features the latest version of Google's Android operating system.

(Apple, meanwhile, announced that it is acquiring Quattro Wireless, which is a mobile advertising company, in move that is widely interpreted as an attack on Google's dominant advertising business.)

Initial reviews of the Nexus One were mixed.

Writing in the New York Times, David Pogue stated: "...the truth is, the Google news this week isn't quite as earthshaking as Google seems to think it is. First, the new phone. It's almost exactly the size and shape of the iPhone...it's bland-looking." Pogue goes on to demonstrate all the ways the Google phone is derivative of the iPhone and other predecessors.

If the allegations coming from the Dick estate prove to accurate, its name is derivative as well.

Hardly a revolutionary way to start off the new decade from the gorilla in Mountain View.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.