Over the past few weeks, our pal David Senior has been embroiled in a heavily mismatched tug of war with global telecommunications giant Nokia, over the branding of his innovative new app Lowdown, and its spin-off app HERE.
Lowdown is a clever little tool which acts as a digital personal assistant by making sure you are optimally prepared for meetings, through collating information from a wide range of online sources and presenting it to you in a simple and easy to digest way. Within Lowdown there is a feature called HERE, which allows people to announce their arrival at a meeting / location; so successful was this feature that the team at Lowdown created a completely separate spin off app HERE…and it was here that Nokia took issue.
The tiny London startup, with a team of just 4, was met with the full corporate might of the multinational corporation
We’ll let David fill you in on the rest of the saga!
We’ve followed the story very closely, but for anyone who hasn’t, can you summarise what happened and what the outcome was?
Lowdownapp Ltd, creators of the world renowned meetings service on iPhone, at the request of our users created a spin off feature and app called HERE. HERE allows people to announce their arrival in one tap, by knowing where they are (location data), where they are meeting (calendar data) and automating the process of working out how to contact whoever they are meeting (text, call, email, phone, a gazillion messaging apps etc.) by sending a notification (and email). HERE is a feature in Lowdown and also a separate app in the AppStore with a different colour (Orange). Nokia Here objected to the use of the English descriptive word Here in our apps. So they sent us a 104 page letter demanding immediate withdrawal of the app and all reference to the word Here in our Core Service (Lowdown) - a cease and desist, which for a $1b company and us being a tiny London based startup is extremely heavy handed and scary.
How close were you to contesting what Nokia were asking, and what finally convinced you not to?
Never close at all, even after huge public support, from Tech City, Silicon Roundabout, 3 Beards etc + the European Commission (Robert Madelin) and the global startup community on Twitter and Facebook + Patent Lawyers all over the world wanting to fight our case we knew we had to quickly concede. Knowing that even if we fight and win, we would have to pay 30% of court costs which could run into millions and we could still be out of business, and more importantly be distracted from our core service and brand which is Lowdown, not HERE. We’re a 4 person team, not a multibillion dollar, 3rd largest mapping service in the world; hence the David v Goliath story on the BBC.
So it was a very quick and easy decision, but very annoying as we have to spend time and effort changing our apps, website, social feeds, PR etc over a single English word.
With hindsight is there anything that you would have done differently?
Nope, we searched the AppStore and there were no other apps called Here, and I don’t believe that you can trademark a word that was being used as an app and a button within an app. I’d never heard of Nokia Here, nor have most people although they’ve spent $12m on marketing…
Is there anything positive that you are taking away from this experience?
Support from the public - they have been amazing. I don’t think that in 2015 corporates should act this way and squash innovation by startups, which this still could do. We’ve reached an agreement with Nokia Here and now have 2 months to remove all trace of the word Here from our apps, but it’s a huge distraction from the core service Lowdown, that thousands of people use all over the world and will allow us to continue running a business based on its success, but we need to reach more users, so this hopefully has a little silver lining. We shall see.
Is there any advice that you could give to someone who might find themselves in a similar situation?
If a giant as big as Nokia comes after you and it’s not your core service, concede, and quickly. If it is your core service, then it’s worth seeking as much advice from multiple independent sources as possible, before reaching a decision. I’d always go to the press first so that people can become aware of corporate bullying. (Unless you’ve agreed to confidentiality).
Is there any way that our community can help you get back on track?
We created Lowdown for those that spend time searching websites and apps before meetings, Lowdown has a smart way to make you feel confident before meetings, be superb during and look awesome afterwards, and so give it a try (N.B a LinkedIn account is required to sign up). Also, if I can ever be of assistance to the community or if anyone has any questions on this matter and if I can help, please contact me, I’m all over the internet so not hard to trace.
Thanks for the chat David, and the very best of luck with everything!If you want to find out more about David VS Nokia, you can see the full story as well as the press coverage HERE
David approached us to give us the scoop on all of the recent happenings, and it has been confirmed to us by the Nokia Head of UK communications that a statement recently given to the Observer, is their official position on the matter.
“We’re pleased that we have been able to agree with Lowdown that it will change the name of its app, to avoid any confusion with apps using the HERE trademark. Lowdown asked for two months to make the changes and we were happy to accept that. We now consider the matter closed and wish Lowdown Ltd. continued success for the future.”