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Iran is Pissed, Ready to Sue Google Over Naming of Persian Gulf

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By Edward Tan, JD on May 21, 2012 6:55 AM

Iran isn't too happy with Google right now. The nation is threatening to sue the Internet giant because it failed to include the name "Persian Gulf" in its maps.

"Omitting the name Persian Gulf is (like) playing with the feelings and realities of the Iranian nation," Ramin Mehmanparast said. Mehmanparast is a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry. He said Google has been "treated as a plaything," CNN reports.

Iranian officials accuse Google of intentionally removing the word "Persian Gulf." But if the country decided to actually file a lawsuit, could it actually be heard?

It's not certain, but there's a good chance it wouldn't have a leg (or paddle) to stand on.

Civil lawsuits by foreign nationals against U.S. citizens and entities are allowed under the Alien Tort Statute. It's a really old law dating back to over 200 hundred years ago. In essence, it allows foreigners to sue U.S. nationals in federal court for any tort actions.

The catch is that the only cases that can be heard are those based on violations of U.S. treaties or international laws.

The problem in Iran's case is that while its government may feel slighted by the name's omission, it's likely not a violation of international laws. Furthermore, America doesn't appear to have any treaties that mention naming requirements for maps made by U.S. companies. So as far as any federal court would be concerned, the case would probably get kicked out.

This isn't the first time the Persian Gulf's name has garnered controversy. Iran had previously criticized the U.S. military for calling it the "Arabian Gulf." The waterway has also been called the "Islamic Gulf," the "Arabo-Persian Gulf," and sometimes just "The Gulf." It's almost like Prince, just that it's a bay and not a moody singer.

While the name "Persian Gulf" doesn't appear on Google's maps, a search for the term will bring up the body of water. The name will even appear in Google's side bar, just not imprinted on the map itself. For now, it remains to be seen if Iran will make good on its threat to sue Google.

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