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7/5/2007
02:40 PM
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Google Loses Gmail Name in Germany

The company says it will still provide Web e-mail in Germany, even though a German court ruled that another firm owns the Gmail trademark in the country.

A German court has ruled that entrepreneur Daniel Giersch holds the "Gmail" trademark in that country, ending Google's legal battle for the name.

Google launched its Gmail service on April 1, 2004. Giersch has been running his own Gmail -- "the best way to go postal," as German news publication Heise Online translates the brand's tag line -- service since 2000.

"Google owns the 'Gmail' trademark in over 60 countries worldwide and we have used it ever since we launched the service in 2004," Google said in an e-mailed statement. "While we regret the German court's decision, it will in no way affect our ability to continue to provide Web e-mail to our users in Germany. Our German users will continue to use 'Google Mail' and enjoy the same experience as users of Gmail worldwide."

Google lost a similar trademark case to U.K.-based financial services firm Independent International Investment Research (IIR) in 2005. IIR subsidiary Pronet Analytics.com Limited has been offering a Gmail service to currency investors since 2002, according to U.K.-based IT publication The Register.

IIR prepared a valuation report in 2004 for the Gmail brand. It concluded the name was worth $48 million to $64 million at the time. According to a 2005 BBC report, Google's senior European counsel Nigel Jones characterized IIR's price as "exorbitant."

Google has reportedly been negotiating or litigating for rights to the Gmail trademark and/or for rights to the associated domain name in China, Poland, Portugal, Monaco, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland. A Google spokesperson was not immediately able to confirm this list.

Gmail does not appear to be an active domain in a number of countries including Barbados (gmail.bb), Greenland (gmail.gl), and Moldova (gmail.md).

Google's Gmail was an invitation-only service until February 2007. In May, Internet metrics firm Hitwise reported that since opening to the general public, "market share of U.S. visits to Gmail increased by 17% from February 2007 to April 2007, and was up 30% year over year, from April 2006 to April 2007." During that period, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail had 13 times and 6 times greater market share, respectively, in the U.S. than Gmail.

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