When Google applied for the ‘Nexus One’ trademark back in December 10th 2009, the they were shocked to learn that the United States Patent and Trademark Office had earlier given the ‘Nexus’ trademark to a Portland-based company, Integra in 2008, and thus it was denial use of the name. The trademark office wrote in its notice of refusal “Registration of the applied-for mark is refused because of a likelihood of confusion with the mark in U.S. Registration No. 3554195”.
The USPTO argued that similarity of words, products, services or trade channels would likely confuse the consumers. Google’s Nexus One sales figures show that within the first 74 days in the market it has hit a rock bottom, notching up only 135,000 units, compared to 1million iPhones sold by Apple within the first 75 days, and over 1million for Motorola’s Droid in the same period. It had to revised its projected sales units from 3.5 m to 1 m for the period.
Although Google blames its trademark’s woes for the marketing limbo, but it is arguable that the Nexus One mobile is rarely available in stores. While all Vodafone shops began selling the Apple iPhone to consumers, only Google’s store site was stocking the Nexus One. Google wanted to control the trade channels of the smart phone so as to avoid competition from other Android mobiles and distributes it exclusively in particular regions, although the retailers and wholesalers wanted to part of the trade channel. Integra’s Nexus is meant to offer its consumers voice, internet services and long-distance calls using one connection.
Although the phone is rarely known, the telecom company right to it allows it to offer “high-speed access to a global computer network”. Integra’s Nexus is a less superior model as compared to the Google’s Nexus which has complex noise reduction system and advanced speech to text, allow users to issue voice commands, use voice technology for text messaging and also so keyword search on the internet. Google is entitled to challenge this verdict within the trademark registration procedure in the next six month. Google said: “We continue to claim rights to the Nexus One trademark in the United States, and plan to respond to the Patent Trademark Office’s action.” But if Google does not contest the USPTO ruling, then it may be forced to buy the trademark, or opt for another name of the phone. Both choices seem challenging but at the end of the day the company will have to go for either.
In the United States mobile phone naming is a big issue, with big phone makers in U.S. Similar Google’s woes have happened to Apple in 2007 when if filed for a trademark for the iPhone and found out that Cisco had already got the trademark for a product known as iPhone. More currently, Apple unveiled the iPadnetbook only to discover that other iPad names were already registered by other firm’s like Fujitsu and ST Microelectronics. Google’s Nexus-related issues are worsened by a court case filed by the estate of Phillip K Dick for using Android, an operating system applied in the Nexus One. The estate claims that the name ‘Nexus’ in association with ‘Android’ copied from Mr. Dick’s essay, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and they were the first to use it.
Fiona McBridge says “Although, the denial of the trademark does not make it impossible for Google to use the name as it can use the name without the trademark, but it makes it vulnerable to anyone selling copycat phones using same name, it makes it hard for Google to use the Nexus One trademark for its products within the United States.” Google can also be sued by Integra Telecom if it so wishes for a trademark infringement claim. However, it seems all is not over according to Peter Chou, CEO of HTC (manufacturer of Nexus One) words. He said, “Considering Google didn’t use retail or marketing for it, the Nexus One is doing pretty well, it has showed the world that HTC is the top Android brand”.