Search engine giant Google is threatening a lawsuit against a tiny South African website named Doogle.
The legal fight may threaten the existence of the company, but has been a short term boon for Doogle, creating so much traffic for the site that it crashed last week. Andries Maree Van Der Merwe, 23, said the free job search site he launched two years ago to help unemployed people in his country find work had more than a million hits last Wednesday.
The Doogle site features the Os as eyes and includes the phrase “Doogle it.”
“That’s more hits than in the entire first year. I can’t believe the site has gone international,” said Van Der Merwe. He is so encouraged by the show of interest to persevere in a potential legal battle to save his business and domain name, www.doogle.co.za.
Van Der Merwe said he received a letter last month from attorneys at Google threatening to sue him for copyright infringement because his name and logo have similarities to the popular search engine’s. One South African newspaper columnist declared Google had crossed the line by “persecuting small companies just because their name sounds vaguely similar.” Van Der Merwe’s story was soon went viral.
“I’m not giving up my name. Doogle is who I am. It’s my business. I registered the company and legally acquired the domain,” said Van Der Merwe.
He said after dropping out of high school and teaching himself to use computers while scraping by on a meager income selling newspapers, he started the company on a computer he bought from a pawn shop. Since then he has begun to do software development and web site creation for other businesses, but he says his dream is for Doogle to become a successful enterprise. He has expanded the site beyond employment posting to include vehicle, realty and other classified listings.
“I am going all the way to court if Google wants to go to court, but I hope there’s a better way to solve this,” said Van Der Merwe.
Van Der Merwe says his attorney has replied to Google’s letter denying the claims and offering to put a notice on his site distancing itself from Google.
A Google spokesperson told the Guardian newspaper she could not comment on individual cases, but said the company is “passionate about protecting the reputation of our brand.”