A trademark dispute has forced Google to re-brand its Gmail web mail service in the UK. Existing users get to retain their Gmail address (at least for now) but from Wednesday onwards new UK users will be given a Googlemail email address instead.
UK-based financial services firm Independent International Investment Research (IIIR) said its subsidiary ProNet Analytics has been using the Gmail name for a web-mail application since the middle of 2002, two years before Google began offering Gmail accounts to consumers. The email service offered by ProNet, by contrast, is used mainly by investors in currency derivatives.
The two companies entered talks into the right to use the Gmail brand but the negotiations broke down several months ago after they failed to agree a financial settlement. An IIR-commissioned assessment put a minimum value on the Gmail brand of £25m ($46m), a figure Nigel Jones, Google's senior European counsel, described as "exorbitant". Google continues to dispute IIIR's trademark claim.
Jones told the BBC that to "avoid any distraction to Google and our users" it was switching brands to Googlemail in the UK while trademark lawyers attempt to resolve the dispute.
A separate trademark dispute forced Google to switch from Gmail to Googlemail in Germany back in May. The BBC reports that German Googlemail users sent email to their username at "@gmail.com" instead of "@googlemail.com" still receive these misdirected messages. ®