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Say I have a YouTube channel about Android development.

And I want to name my channel to something like "Android Guy" / "Android Dude" / ...

My question here is: am I legally allowed to include the word "Android" in my YouTube channel name?

All information I found so far is this: https://developer.android.com/distribute/marketing-tools/brand-guidelines?hl=en

But it didn't really help.

Furthermore I saw that there's a YouTube channel called "Android Authority", which seems to be allowed by Google. But it is a really big channel.

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Indiviual words and short phrases such as titles cannot be protected by copyright. However, they can be protected by trademark law. "Android" is a trademark in the US, in the EU, and I am pretty sure in most if not all other countries.

Trademark protection is specific to a purpose or area. If you are writing an SF novel which contains an artificial being, you can describe that being as "an android" without infringing the trademark protection on the mobile phone OS. However, using the term "android" to describe a pieces of mobile phone software is likely to be an infringement.

Trademark law is different in different countries. For example, in some countries, there is no protection unless a trademark is registered. In others, including the US, simply using a term to label a product or service in commerce can create protection, although registration can give additional rights to the trademark holder. The exact rights protected and the standards for measuring infringement will also vary, but there are many similarities in trademark laws across the world.

One can use a trademark to refer to the trademarked product or service, and this is not an infringement. For example, one can write a review of Android phones vs Iphones, and use the term "Android". This is called "Nominative use" or sometimes "Nominative fair use". One must be careful not to imply that the trademark owner has approved, endorsed, or sponsored the use. With a review, this is usually fairly obvious. But in other cases of nominative use it can be more of an issue. For example, one might write in an advertisement "This software is compatible with Android phones." That is nominative use, but a reader might think that the software has been in some way approved by the trademark holder. The ad should therefore make it very clear that there has been no such approval, sponsorship, or affiliation. This is often do0ne with an explicit disclaimer, such as "XYZ software is not produced by, approved, sponsored by, or affiliated with Android, which is a trademark of Google."

In general one should use no more of a trademark than is needed to identify a product under nominative use. It is generally better practice to sue the name, but not the logo. Use of a logo is more likely to appear to indicate some sort of affiliation. But this is not an absolute rule. For example, a product which is compatible with many other products might display a list of logos, provided it makes clear that this merely indicates compatibility. not approval.

The basic standard is that one may not use a trademark so that a reasonable person, a customer or potential customer, might plausibly be confused into thinking that a product or service comes from the trademark holder, or is in some way approved by, endorsed by, or is affiliated with the trademark holder, or that the reputation associated with the trademark properly attaches to the product that uses the trademark without permission. Also, one may not use a trademark so as to dilute it, treating it as a generic term for all products of a similar type. For example, one should not use "Xerox" as a synonym for "photocopy", as that dilutes the Xerox trademark.

One may offer training or instruction about a trademarked product, and one may use the trademark to identify the product about which instruction is begin offered. This is a form of nominative use, and like other forms, the user must make the lack of any affiliation clear, and avoid possible consumer confusion. This would apply to publicly posted videos.

Using a handle such as "AndroidGuy" to indicate that one is a fan of, or an expert with, Android phones could be a form of nominative use, but seems rather likely to create confusion. If others might reasonably think this indicates that "AndroidGuy" is some sort of official representative of Android, or has in some way been approved or authorized by Google, that would be infringement.

A channel name, unlike a handle, comes with a description, that could help clarify the lack of affiliation. But again, if anyone might reasonably be confused into thinking the channel or the videos posted there are sponsored by Google, that might be infringement. If the videos are being sold, or are used to advertise commercial courses or any other products or services, one must be particularly careful to avoid any implied affiliation.

Trademark infringement, like copyright infringement, is usually a civil matter, not a criminal one. That means that the trademark holder must bring a court case or other legal proceeding to stop the infringement, or to recover damages or penalties. Some holders are more aggressive about this than others. This also means that a holder can file suit even in cases that are clearly permitted nominative use, and it is up to the defendant to assert and demonstrate that the use is permitted under the relevant law. Google can hire more lawyers than an independent developer can.

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Android isn't a copyrighted term (and you cannot copy right names period). So the question then is if you're the Android Guy, are you reviewing the phone brand, or Star Trek: TNG episodes featuring the Android character Data, or the various forms that (an)droids take in Star Wars, or the development of technology that could lead to real life androids existing among humans or comedy bit where you play a human-like robot that is possessing human's illogical decisions as a form of Satire.

Copyright infringment only occurs when you take an Android brand logo (the green trashcan guy), slap it on an iPhone, and sell it as if it's an Android. Or make toys for profit of Data and C3PO.

Furthermore, Reviews are generally considered fair use as the product you are providing is not the phone, but your opinion of the phone. Or you use the logo in a parody of a marketing campaign to satirize the phone. While these may hurt sales of the product, some people have found that even bad reviews have led to a temporary bump in sales because people do want to see just how bad the review is. You can even use the Android green trashcan robot in art so long as it is transformative in nature (i.e. you can't just copy the logo... you can manipulate the logo so it appears making the letter "A" in "Android Guy" ala the way "A" is formed in the "YMCA" dance.

I'd suggest not using those names only because they have no reason to stick in your audience's mind unlike "Android Authority" which has alliteration going for it and you can come off as muscling in on his domain in what I assume is a niche market (I'm not sure there's a strong demand to satisfy two seperate reviewers... then again, I watch theme park attraction reviews, which is surprisingly high amount of series and most have done looks at Disney attractions so... you never know... just make your format different... if he's reviewing features, maybe talk about the history of the development).

  • Thanks for your detailed answer! It truly makes sense, that the word "Android" itself can't be copyrighted."Android Dude" and "Android Guy" are indeed bad names. I just wanted to give an example. – Lukas Schneider Sep 11 at 14:25
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    I'm not sure it is correct to make an argument based on copyright concepts, when trademarks should be discussed. There are hundreds of trademarks for “Android” including those by Google. Using it in any way that could mislead consumers is trademark infringement. There are no fair-use exceptions as in copyright law that would allow parodies or transformative use, though “nominative use” that necessarily mentions the name of the product to refer to the product is OK. OP's use in their own brand isn't nominative use though. – amon Sep 11 at 15:16
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    This is primarily a trademark issue, not a copyright issue, and the rules are different. The answer does not discuss trademarks at all. Nor is this answer fully correct even as to trademark rules. – David Siegel Sep 11 at 17:17

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