Internet giant Google is threatening to sue a 23-year-old school dropout after he set up a jobseekers website and named it Doogle.
Lawyers working on behalf of the world’s largest search engine, worth an estimated £160bn, wrote to South African-based Andries Maree Van Der Merwe ordering him to shut down his site or change its name and logo.
Van Der Merwe, from Middelburg in Mpumalanga province, had the idea for the job site while selling newspapers on a street corner having dropped out of school aged 16.
After finding an investor to back him he registered the web address doogle.co.za, in January 2011 and set up his site which allows jobseekers to upload their details for free and search online directories.
‘The name just popped into my head. I said, “That’s the name I’m going for – people will remember it.”
‘I searched domain names and it was available.’
Google, which receives an average of 7.2 billion page views every day, has risen to become one of the world’s most powerful corporations with headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Doogle, by comparison, took a year to reach its millionth hit and is currently making a loss. It was set up on a £43 computer bought at a pawn shop which Mr Van Der Merwe still uses to edit the site.
He added: ‘I haven’t made any money from the site. Sometimes I have to catch fish from the river to eat. But I think God is with me,’ he said.
‘Eventually I want to have a successful company and help people. I know a guy who got a job through Doogle and he’s now a manager.’
Google claims that Doogle’s logo and search engine infringe its copyright and say there is a danger that users will assume the two sites are associated.
But Mr Van Der Merwe, who works part-time as a software engineer, refutes the claims and says he is ready to go to court to fight his corner.
Global search engine
State of the art offices in Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California
YouTube acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion, Gmail launched in 2004 and the Android mobile phone operating system
South African job site
Andries Maree Van Der Merwe’s flat in Mpumalanga province
Mr Van Der Merwe’s ancient computer bought for the sum of £43 from a Mpumalanga province pawn shop
His lawyer, Emmie de Kock, said: ‘The services provided by Doogle-it are distinguishable from the services of Google in the sense that Doogle-it provides online search facilities on its website for specific directories relating to businesses, job seekers, property listings and motor trading, for entries registered on its local databases.’
A spokesman for Google South Africa, told the Guardian: ‘We can’t comment on individual cases, but we are passionate about protecting the reputation of our brand as an objective and fair provider of search results.