Two weeks ago, news emerged of a spat emerging between Nokia and a London-based startup called Lowdown over its use of the HERE brand — a brand Nokia has used for its mapping and navigation platform since 2012. Today, we can reveal an agreement has been reached between the two companies, with Lowdown confirming to VentureBeat that it will rebrand and remove all mentions of HERE in the coming months.
The issue first arose back in October, when Lowdown launched a follow-up app to its existing “smarter meetings” Lowdown service. Not only did this new standalone app use a person’s location to inform fellow meeting delegates when they arrive, but its name was stylized in exactly the same way as Nokia’s HERE — Nokia lays claim to holding the trademark for “HERE” in relation to software and apps.
After several months in the App Store, Lowdown received a 104-page letter from Nokia’s solicitors, with the Finnish tech titan issuing this public statement:
“Nokia has been using the HERE brand in relation to location-based apps and services since 2012. Its use by Lowdown for an app which offers location-based services risks confusing customers and impacting on our brand, so we’ve asked them to use something else.”
Lowdown has since pitched this as a David vs. Goliath battle, accusing Nokia of behaving “like a corporate bully.”
“It’s so heavy-handed. All they needed to do was call us up, tell us about Nokia Here, then ask us to please change the name,” said Lowdown cofounder and CEO David Senior.
“The name chosen for the FREE app named HERE was not meant to cause any brand confusion, it was the most literal representation of what the service does — we also believe there is no confusion to be had, the logos are distinctly different,” he added.
While it has been reported that Nokia issued an ultimatum to remove all mentions of HERE by February 10, in effect not giving Lowdown much time to rebrand, we’ve learned that this wasn’t a deadline to implement the changes — it was merely a date by which Nokia wanted confirmation that the necessary changes would be made.
That day has come and gone, and Lowdown has agreed to rebrand, while requesting sufficient time to make the changes. A Nokia spokesperson tells us:
“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.”
So, over the next two months, Lowdown will be refreshing its marketing materials, including website, Twitter feeds, and App Store description. Lowdown’s Senior says that the company plans to use a “long description” for the app, rather than introduce a new name. The app will now simply say “This app lets people know you’ve arrived,” next to a plain white circle where the HERE brand once sat.
However, HERE has also previously been integrated into the main Lowdown app itself as a feature, so the existing “I’m HERE” button within that will be reworked into “I AM HERE” in the next two months.
While it’s easy to view this debacle as a “big guy vs. little guy” story, it’s hard not to see things from Nokia’s perspective. Even looking beyond the name itself, in Nokia’s HERE app for Android, users can inform others where they are thanks to an integration with Glympse, and that is kind of like what Lowdown’s HERE does. It’s not exactly the same, of course, but in conjunction with the HERE branding, it’s easy to see why Nokia might take umbrage.
At any rate, everything has now been resolved, courts have been avoided, and David and Goliath can go their separate ways.