I must say that I was really shocked when I read a report in the Guardian on Thursday (15 Nov) that a South African web site Doogle has been threatened with a legal action by a giant search engine, Google.
This, according to the report, is because the giant search engine claims copyright over the name and the logo, saying these were too similar to Google’s. But Doogle’s Andries Maree Van Der Merwe told the Guardian that he would fight this all the way through. Describing this as a “David and Goliath” contest, he said he set up the web site after dropping out of school at 16 to look for a job. The idea came to him while he was working for a newspaper vendor, he said. “I sold newspapers on street corners and people told me what was wrong. They wanted a place where they go to find a job.
Last year Van Der Merwe found an investor and later registered doogle.co.za which allows jobseekers to upload their details for free and search online directories. According to the software developer, the name just popped “into my head. I said, ‘That’s the name I’m going for – people will remember it.’ I searched domain names and it was available.” He said: “For a year or so I suffered. I had nothing. I’m still using a computer I bought at a pawn shop for 600 rand [£43] and it’s very slow. I haven’t made any money from the site. Sometimes I have to catch fish from the river to eat. But I think God is with me”.
Van Der Merwe said the web site received a million hits in its first year, and that about 10,000 on 13 November alone. “Eventually I want to have a successful company and help people. I know a guy who got a job through Doogle and he’s now a manager.” He rejected claims that his logo infringed on Google’s copyright, that there is a danger, according to the giant search engine, that users will assume Doogle is associated with Google.
He dispelled his, telling the Guardian that he offered to place a notice on his site distancing it from Google. When he received a letter from Google lawyers, said Van Der Merwe: “All I could do was smile [because] I didn’t expect it but I’m not going to get negative. I’m feeling good because I know the law is with me. If they want to take me to court, I will go all the way.”
Van Der Merwe said he’s not angry at Google, insisting to still using the search engine, but that they “can take me to court and we can settle this like businessmen. I will just go on. I’m still young. I have nothing to lose. I’m starting to be successful.” His lawyer, Emmie de Kock, described this as a “possible David-Goliath battle”.
De Kock said Doogle is “distinguishable from the services of Google in the sense that [it] provides online search facilities on its website for specific directories relating to businesses, job seekers, property listings and motor trading, for entries registered on its local databases.”
Although the giant search engine refused to answer questions from the Guardian, its South African spokesperson Julie Taylor, said she could not comment on individual cases, claiming Google was “passionate about protecting the reputation of [its] brand as an objective and fair provider of search results”. She said users were only asked “not to shorten, abbreviate or create acronyms out of Google trademarks”.
“We have to turn down many requests for use of Google brand features because sites imply that Googleis endorsing them or is otherwise affiliated with them,” claimed De Kock.
And so we wait and see how this “possible David-Goliath battle” between Van Der Merwe and Google ends.