Google Has Lost the Right to Gmail Name in Germany

Nikola Koritz
October 14, 2008

Gmail users in Germany were surprised this summer when instead of gaining access to their email, they were greeted with the following message: "We can't provide service under the Gmail name in Germany; we're called Google Mail here instead. If you are travelling in Germany, you can access your mail at http://mail.google.com Oh, and we'd like to link the URL above, but we're not allowed to do that either."

What is the issue?

Although the service is one of the most popular mail solutions on the Internet, it seems like the company must rename the product in multiple regions after some companies sustained that Gmail is a registered trademark.

The first case was reported in 2005 in the UK when the search giant renamed the mail service to Google Mail after a company sent a notification to Google saying that Gmail is a registered trademark of their financial software.

In July 2007, Google Germany had to change from www.gmail.com as a result of a trademark lawsuit with a German businessman Daniel Giersch, who owns the German trademark for an e-mail service "G-mail... und die Post geht richtig ab" for his paid email service. Giersch startet using the name G-Mail in 2000, four years before Google released "Gmail".

"Google infringed the young businessman's trademark that had been previously been registered,"said the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in its judgement. "As far as the Hanseatic Higher Court is concerened, the legal situation is unambiguous to the extent that it has not allowed an appeal to the Federal Court of Justice (equivalent to the Supreme Court)," said Giersch's lawyer.

"Following this ruling, we decided not to offer or provide information about email services in Germany that include the word "Gmail"," the Google Germany spokesperson Stefan Keuchel said. "We're taking this action even though we believe we're not legally obliged to do so."

The trademark conflict started three years agon in July 2005, when Google changed its German service from Gmail to Google Mail.

The battle has dragged in for three years and has been fought in a number of State jurisdictions. Google has filed lawsuits against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. After the German decision a court in Switzerland threw out Google's case and now Giersch will file a suit to prohibit Google from using the name in that country.

"I have made a clear since the beginning that I will never sell the name," Giersch said, after Google offered $ 250.000 to buy the Gmail trademark. "It is my sole intention to realise my idea for a hybrid mail system. I am absolutely convinced of its success. Neither "Gmail" nor myself are for sale".

After the Google lawsuits have ended, Giersch hopes to focus his energies into the further development of "G-mail", which he touts as a new "standard of communication on the Internet".

 

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