Android name is being contested by an Illinois developer

May 03, 2009 9:49 PM EDT

Illinois developer Erich Specht, filed suit this week for trademark infringement against Google and some 47 other companies in the Open Handset Alliance. At stake are the rights to the Android name which denotes Google's version of Linux that adorns their handsets.

On paper it would appear that the suit has some merit. Specht has officially owned the trademark to "android" since he registered it in 2000. Two years later, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the trademark to Android Data, Specht's company. The USPTO granted the application noting that no application would be granted the exclusive right to use the term data, therefore making "android" that dominant word and the trademark.

A case of being in the right place at the right time, registering the right domain name. Opportunistic?

Fortunately for Google, it is not that cut and dry. Android Data's business never amounted to anything. In fact, the company was dissolved in 2004 and lost its domain name androiddata.com. A new domain name android-data.com was registered a few weeks ago in anticipation of the lawsuit.

Another interesting observation: Why did Specht wait so long to file suit? If he had filed suit when the name was announced, there might not have been so much money invested in the name. Now, Google and its partners are heavily vested.

"He had heard about the Android phone, but thought, 'That's a mobile device,' " Specht's attorney told Forbes. "As soon as he learned it was software, he stepped up, and we filed as fast as we could."

And what of the name android, anyway? Is it a generic term or is it something new?

Wikipedia's take on Android:

An android is a robot or synthetic organism designed to look and act human. The word derives from ??????, the genitive of the Greek ???? an?r, meaning "man", and the suffix -eides, used to mean "of the species; alike" (from eidos, "species"). Though the word derives from a gender-specific root, its usage in English is usually gender neutral. The term was first mentioned by St. Albertus Magnus in 1270 and was popularized by the French writer Villiers in his 1886 novel L'Ève future, although the term "android" appears in US patents as early as 1863 in reference to miniature humanlike toy automations.

Apparently, it's been around for a while. It is surprising that Specht's was the first business to register it.

What is Google's take? "We believe the complaint has no merit," a Google spokesperson said, "We plan to defend against them vigorously."

I anticipate any closed-door settlement somewhere between the $100,000,000 Specht is asking for and a lot closer to nothing.