By Kevin Rawlinson
It was supposed to be the long-awaited launch of Google’s rival to Apple’s iphone. But instead, the unveiling of the company’s Nexus One mobile has landed it in legal hot water after the family of author Philip K. Dick, on whose novel the film Blade Runner was based, threatened to sue for infringement of intellectual property rights.
Isa Dick Hackett, daughter of the American writer, says that many of the names of the phone’s features are lifted directly from her father’s book Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? and the 1982 film based upon it. The Nexus One’s operating system is called Android and the rogue cyborgs in the book are called the Nexus 6.
She sent a letter to Google yesterday, the day after the phone’s launch, demanding that the corporation change the name. “Google takes first and then deals with the fallout later. In my mind, there is a very obvious connection to my father’s novel. People don’t get it. It’s the principle of it. It would be nice to have a dialogue. We are open to it. That’s a way to start,” said Ms Dick Hackett.
Google’s new product is based on its Android technology, launched two years ago. The company hopes that the phone – a direct competitor to the Apple iphone – will gain it a share in the mobile phone market. It claimed at the phone’s launch on Tuesday that the Nexus name is used in the word’s original sense – as a place where things converge.
In Dick’s book, set in 2019, the main protagonist Rick Deckard – played by actor Harrison Ford in the film Blade Runner – is a San Francisco bounty hunter, searching for renegade androids who have escaped their human masters and are trying to lead lives as humans. After some people left Earth to escape the fallout from a nuclear war which had ravaged the planet, the cyborgs were supposed to act as slaves.
In the past, the Dick family, along with the Steinbeck family and musician Arlo Guthrie, son of US musician Woody Guthrie, has also attacked Google’s Book section, on which users can search the text of books the company has scanned and uploaded. Google uses optical character recognition technology to convert the books into searchable text and stores them on its digital database.
They said that the system was overly complicated and that copyright holders were being asked to make binding decisions. In 2008, Google agreed to pay around £78m to copyright holders after the American Author’s Guild sued. The company also agreed to set up Book Rights Registry to distribute revenue to copyright holders.
Another mobile phone company, Motorola agreed to pay director of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films George Lucas for the use the name Droid in their Android OS-powered smartphone.
A spokesman for Google refused to comment today.