I saw this over at Locus Online today. Apparently Google is launching its new phone with an Android operating system and calling the phone the Nexus One. Philip K Dick’s estate are upset about it claiming that Google is appropriating Dick’s work (his novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep which was used as the basis for the best film ever made, Blade Runner).

Clearly the term Nexus One is a reference that everyone with a basic SF knowledge will associate with the Nexus 6 replicants in Dick’s work. Google apparently (according to the Dick estate) have a habit of acting this way.

From the Locus article:

Isa Dick Hackett, daughter of PKD and president of Electric Shepherd Productions (the company the estate set up to manage PKD’s film rights), says “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.”

Bloody fair enough too. I hope something is settled on this to everyone’s satisfaction. I’m a big fan of Google but they are starting to develop a bit of a school yard bully reputation. They’ll probably sue me for saying that.

However, more startling to me was the revelation in that article that George Lucas’s company Lucasfilm Ltd. owns the word “droid” – it’s a registered trademark of the company. Apparently they invented the word. Motorola released an Android OS phone last year and called it the Droid, but they dealt with Lucasfilm and are using the term under licence.

How bizarre.

EDIT: This post caused a bit of conversation on Facebook and a friend of mine there, Andrew McKiernan, pointed out the following:

I know the PKD are serious, but I’m not sure if you are Alan. A Nexus is ‘a means of connection between things linked’, and considering that the Nexus One is Google’s first phone, and a smart-phone designed to act as a hub for phone/internet/email etc, I think the name is perfectly suitable and acceptable without any SF connection. Having said that, I wonder what the life-span of a Nexus One phone is, before it dies?

Also, ‘droid’ wasn’t a cromulent word until Lucas used it in Star Wars. Nexus has always been a word.

To which I replied:

If it has a built-in four year lifespan they’re fucked.

Call me cynical, but a piece of tech using Android software called a Nexus is deliberately courting the nerd vote in my book. Or perhaps I’m just a cynical nerd that thinks about these things too closely. I’ll grant you that Nexus is certainly not the same as Droid, which is an entirely new word.

It’ll be interesting to see how the case goes, but I don’t think the PKD estate are likely to win it.

Incidentally, I’d also like to applaud your use of the word “cromulent” in everyday conversation. Well done, sir.

All worth bearing in mind.