The Word “Droid” is a Registered Trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd.

A real android, model DER-01, unveiled at a 2005 Expo in Japan. This android can respond to a variety of commands in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English

Today I found out the word “droid” is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Shortly before Verizon launched their “DROID” line of mobile devices, Lucasfilm Ltd. swept in and filed a trademark on October 9, 2009 for the term “Droid”.  Specifically claiming the term for:

Wireless communications devices, including, mobile phones, cell phones, hand held devices and personal digital assistants, accessories and parts therefor, and related computer software and wireless telecommunications programs; mobile digital electronic devices for the sending and receiving of telephone calls, electronic mail, and other digital data, for use as a digital format audio player, and for use as a handheld computer, electronic organizer, electronic notepad, and digital camera; downloadable ring tones and screen savers; cameras, pagers and calling cards.

As a result of this, Verizon pays Lucasfilm Ltd. an undisclosed sum for the rights to use this word as a brand name.

The word “droid” is just an aphesis form of “android”, a word that’s been around since at least the 1700s.  The first documented mention of “android” is in the Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopedia, “Albertus Magnus is recorded as having made a famous androides”. Android derives from the Greek ὰνδρο (andro-), meaning “man”, and the suffix -ειδῄς (-eides), meaning “form, likeness, appearance, or resemblance”; hence the definition of android being “automaton resembling a human being”.

The first known instance of the word “droid” being used was in the 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope, hence Lucas’ initial claim on the word, though obviously not in any way being used to describe a wireless communication device necessarily, unless the particular droid was being used to relay messages wirelessly, which I suppose the Imperial Probe Droid in Empire Strikes Back had that capability, from a certain point of view.  You’ll note that unlike in most other science fiction where an android signified a machine that resembled a human, Star Wars’ droids need not have resembled human beings to be called such, though some did.

Lucasfilm Ltd. doesn’t mess around with this trademark either, as most don’t given trademark law requires you actively protect your trademark or lose it, often resulting in lawyers being a little overzealous in threatening lawsuits for potential trademark infringement.  If your brand name even just includes the word “droid” you might get a letter from them, such as a recent startup by Matt Cooper, (an ad company), that got a cease and desist notice from Lucasfilm Ltd.’s lawyers Morrison Foerster (at, funny enough… don’t mess with the mofo lawyers).  Although, in truth Cooper was playing off the full term “android”, rather than droid, so perhaps Google’s lawyers should have been the ones filing suit.  In either case, it doesn’t appear as if Addroid has yet been forced to change their name, despite the threats.

Bonus Facts:

  • Artisans in China developed an elaborate functional mechanical orchestra around 200 BC.
  • Leonardo Divinci designed and built the first known humanoid robot around 1495.  This robot was an armored knight that could sit up, wave its arms, and move its head while opening and closing its jaw; presumably meant to scare children who were misbehaving. ;-)
  • Cybernetics professor Kevin Warwick recently became the world’s first cyborg, putting computer chips in his left arm that he uses to remotely control doors, an artificial hand, and his electronic wheelchair, among other things.  Among his more famous experiments: in 2002, using a connection to his nervous system, he connected through the internet and controlled a robotic arm, including being able to feel what the arm/hand felt through sensors in the hand.  Another extrasensory preceptor he has wired up to his nervous system is an ultrasonic sensor attached to a hat.  His wife has also been similarly equipped, though with a simpler device connected to her nervous system so that they can “communicate” with one another through the internet; more or less transmitting “feelings” to one another.
  • The first known human killed by a robot was in 1981, when a robotic arm, no doubt in a diabolical plot to try to take over the world, crushed a Japanese Kawasaki factory worker.
  • Many of the droids, including R2-D2 and C-3PO, on Star Wars were designed by legendary special effects man John Stears, a.k.a. “The Dean of Special Effects”.  Stears also designed Skywalker’s Landspeeder, the lightsaber, the Death Star, and a variety of other gadgets in the films.  He isn’t just known for his work in Star Wars, though, but also in the James Bond movies, known as “The Real Q” in that context, and for designing the flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, among many other films he worked on.
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  • Android was used in season 3 episode 19 in 1969 Star Trek series

  • When was the earliest use of the abbreviation “droid” for “android”? If someone can find some author who used it, that author (or that author’s estate) can sue Lucasfilms. Didn’t Isaac Asimov use the abbreviation some time before Lucas was even born?

  • Kevin Warwick is a roundly-mocked attention seeker mostly known for his hyperbolic claims about perfectly ordinary technology, that he himself had no part in inventing.

    His “door opening” chip was the same one commonly used to “microchip” pets. Since a cyborg is an organism, not necessarily a human, that makes millions of cats and dogs cyborgs before he was one. And he could have just carried the tag in a wallet like a normal person.

    The connection to his nervous system is an application of the same technology used in prosthetics for disabled people and cochlear implants. Kevin’s innovation was just to call every news agency he could find the phone number of. While communicating through it to his wife (presumably they both had to learn Morse code) is novel, he could’ve just texted her.

    Eventually the news media got bored of the self-aggrandising clown, and he hasn’t been heard about for a good decade or so. This trend should continue.

    Also an artist called Stelarc did all sorts of cyber-stuff long before Kevin did, and being something of an interesting bloke, actually managed to impress people with his creativity and new ideas.

  • First known use of word “droid”:

    “Jack shook his head. ‘It’s crazy. They’re swarming all over Carron City.They’re stopping robots in the streets—household Robs, commercial Droids, all of them. They just look at them, and then the others quit work and start off with them. The police sent for us to come and get ours.”

    From Robots of the World! Arise!, by Mari Wolf.

    Raises question on what merit can George Lucas lay claim on a word “droid” when it is not invented by himself, maybe not as outrageous claim as Rupert Murdoch’s claim on word “sky”, but still close enough to make to the humankinds list of most shitheaded egoistical buffoons of all time.

  • “Android”, strictly speaking, means “like a male person”. “Like a human being” is “anthropoid”.

  • You (and Lucasfilm) are incorrect. I saw a film when I was in grade school, long before Star Wars, and it was called Silent Running, this is where Lucas stole his entire idea for Droids and they were called Droids. Lucas has 0 legal right other than bullying people with his fortune and pet lawyers.