Last Updated: May 6th, 2013

If you're an Android power user who regularly applies mods or flashes new ROMs, you've likely run across Koushik "Koush" Dutta's work. He's the maker and maintainer of the ClockworkMod recovery and ROM Manager, and a publisher of several of his own independent applications. One of those apps is the powerful Carbon backup app, which we've featured before. It looks like the name "carbon" was a bit too close for comfort for the makers of Carbonite software (a more mainstream backup solution for desktops and mobile), who sent Koush a cease-and-desist letter back in February.


As explained on Koush's Google+ page in his typical and endearingly nerdy way, the developer renamed his app "Helium", and it's still available on the Play Store. Koush added a few bug fixes to the standard app as well, and the Windows installer now includes the universal ADB driver. The premium license for the app will probably follow suit shortly. This little legal hiccup probably won't cause any disruption in the performance or continued development for Helium, but it's hard not to feel a little off-put when a comparatively enormous company like Carbonite puts the screws to an independent developer in the name of "brand protection."

There's not much point in speculation, but it's as well to point out that were Koush to take Carbonite up on its offer of legal action, he'd be in a pretty good position. Both the app and the service are named after existing concepts (one is an element, the other an explosive compound), meaning that the trademark for Carbonite itself would be a bit shaky if both software packages weren't offering a "carbon copy" backup. And the names themselves are separate enough that Carbonite's claim of brand confusion is tenuous at best. Mr. Dutta probably didn't want to deal with the expense and time that a prolonged copyright battle can bring... and who could blame him.

We're never ones to tell our readers what to do, but the next time you hear one of Carbonite's radio advertisements, we hope the contents of this story will cross your mind.

Koushik Dutta (Google+) - Carbonite's Cease & Desist Letter

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Samuel Hart

    Nice to see Carbonite own all rights to Carbon, something not found anywhere but in their company.

    More seriously (because this is really stupid to start with); Lucas! Get in there, take your name back!

    • http://twitter.com/Lirodon Lirodon

      Actually, there is a likelihood of confusion here; U.S. law requires that trademark owners defend their marks to ensure they do not become diluted

      • Samuel Hart

        And I thought that I'd see Han Solo at the heart of this company!

        But don't get me started on the stupidity of US trademark law on its own, this is just a particularly pointless indicator :D

        • http://shanked.me/ Shank

          To be fair, it is kinda logical. The idea is that a company can't own something if they don't defend that they own it. To boot, they *are* both backup apps.

          • Samuel Hart

            Look at it this way; if you can't defend your thing being stolen by a really big company who can afford the best lawyers in the world: you don't own it anymore. If you don't mind a little company doing no harm using something that MIGHT be confused with your product maybe-not-really-if-you-squint: you don't own it anymore.

            That's a pretty silly way of doing it.

          • Christopher Lee

            It's a precedence problem: current law is basically you defend in all instances, or in none.

          • squiddy20

            Yeah, cause everyone confuses the Amazon Appstore for Apple's...

          • Brian

            If someone was talking about "App Stores," there would be *plenty* of confusion about which App Store was meant. The problem, here, is that the name "App Store" is too generic to be a reasonable trademark for an app Store. I don't think "Carbon/Carbonite" are very generic names for backup applications.

      • cryolithic

        Yup, not just US either. My partner is a Trademark Agent here in Canada, and it's the same. You have to defend your trademark or risk losing it.

      • Stoker

        +1. I know the knee jerk reaction among internet Android fans is likely to be a hipster "fight the man" reflex, but this seems like a perfectly reasonable action on Carbonite's part to me. They legally need to protect their trademark and both products do in fact have some similarity in function in addition to the name. I'm sure it was an unintentional thing on Koush's part but I don't really blame them for saying "Hey, you need to change this".

      • Haedocynic

        That is a bit of a myth, propagated by lawyers: the only way in which you can or might want to protect your trade mark is if other people use the exact same name for something else, because then you run the risk that it will become a general name for the kind of product, instead of your brand. That's why Google doesn't like it when, say, Yahoo says "use our search engine to google stuff"—even though they can probably do very little about this particular example in practice. At any rate, none of this is relevant to Carbon v. Carbonite.

    • marcusmaximus04

      Lucas doesn't own it anymore. It belongs to Disney.

      • Samuel Hart

        Oooh! Good point, I forgot that (HOW?!)!

        I'll amend it pronto!

        • QwietStorm

          Well it's probably best that you did forget it.

    • GazaIan

      In another news, Carbon dioxide has just become helium dioxide thanks to a C&D from Carbonite.

      • Samuel Hart

        "All organic chemistry suddenly flies apparts as base molecular bonds collectively go 'what the fuck?!'"

      • http://shanked.me/ Shank

        Except Carbon dioxide isn't a tool for backing up things. Carbon and Carbonite both backup personal files.

  • Clay S.

    fuck off carbonite, i hate your commercials.

  • NardVa

    Didn't know of this company called Carbonite until now. There must not be that must confusion.

    • http://twitter.com/Lirodon Lirodon

      I've seen their ads on TV

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      They're one of the most popular backup services for desktops - they're definitely well-known.

  • cy_n_ic

    We need an android johnny cochrin. Someone with the time and resources to stand up for the little guy. I swear when i strike it rich...

  • BrianLipp

    This is like the guy who, somehow, had the rights to the word "edge" and sued anyone who used it in the name of a product. Ridiculous

  • Mr.Logical

    I think this is a legitimate request. Both softwares have similar functionality and differ by only a few letters. Carbonite is very well-known and this could cause confusion. I don't see the issue here. I know Android users like to blindly defending certain things but I think this one makes sense.

    • lljktechnogeek

      Yeah, this really does run pretty much headlong into "likelihood of confusion" territory. Both produces are used for backup purposes -- hell, Carbon/Helium even has a "backup to cloud" feature. I'm pretty sure that Koush would be able to defend his usage given the different markets and marketing channels, but it's still enough that a lack of C&D would be pretty strong evidence to declare the Carbonite trademark abandoned.

  • Eric Jones

    Probably just a typo, but it's follow suit not "suite". Please feel free to delete my grammar nazi post after it's fixed. I can't help it, I'm sorry. http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/follow+suit

  • Carlos Santa

    I'm gonna start a company called Aceboo, and go after any company that contains that name in any of their products..

  • Matthew Fry

    As much as I like Koush, when I heard the name of the app I knew the decision to name it something similar to Carbonite was a bad idea. He was teasing fate. I agree that it shouldn't be a problem but it was easily foreseeable.

    • nxtiak

      I thought exactly the same thing.

  • MeCampbell30

    The fact that this lawyer doesn't know that the period goes inside the quotation marks should let you know Carbonite's lawyer is bad.

    • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.pavel Benjamin Pavel

      Damn, your profile picture goes so good with your comment. =D

  • nunu10000

    I have to give Koush props on not going after this though. Litigation is expensive, and a HUGE waste of time. I know that the C&D letters are usually pretty boilerplate, but I can't help but feel like the way these lawyers worded this letter makes Carbonite come across as a bunch of assholes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/browncanada Jonah Brown

    I suppose this guy would be next on the hit list eh?


    He has a software called Carbon Copy Cloner!

  • Jimmy

    As much as I love Koush's work (I
    have actually bought several of their items, more than once), I have to say I
    was let down by the developers this time. I used Helium to backup
    my data, copied on my computer "carbon" and "data" files,
    but after factory restore, I couldn't get my data back. I have re-installed helium
    on the tablet and copied the folders back, but it says "not backup files
    found". I was so furious I almost smashed it all all together but instead
    received a handy recommendation from one of my friend to download G cloud
    Backup and thankfully never have had to go back to toxic Carbon dioxide again!

  • sunsetdriver13

    Hey there! Is there a version for the Samsung Galaxy Gio GT-S5660 (Android 2.3.6)? Help, I need it so much...

  • http://chrisbeveridge.ca Chris Beveridge

    I'm a huge fan of Koush, but even in your own, other aritcles, you say, "Koush releases Carbon, No Not That Carbon", so seems to me like you are feeling their could be brand confusion.