Last week Google was forced to rebrand its Gmail service in the UK to Google Mail after London-based Independent International Investment Research claimed it registered the trademark in 2002.
Now another claimant, Norwegian software vendor Gallagher & Robertson, has entered the fray, stating that it first used the Gmail name in 1989 when it decided to rename an email program it first developed in 1984. Since then, the program has been sold as Gmail in the UK, Europe, and the US.
"We have never come across this product before, so on that test we don't seem to conflict or cause confusion to each other," said Shane Smith, IIIR's chairman and chief executive. "If someone else has superior rights to ours, we would concede that they own it. We wish that Google would have adopted this stance."
Michael Sandry, Gallagher & Robertson's general manager, says that his users have reacted to Google's use of the Gmail name, believing that there is a connection. "Although Gallagher & Robertson never registered the Gmail trademark we have, through the use of the Gmail trademark over the last 15 years, undoubtedly obtained rights to the trademark Gmail in connection with services related to opening, processing and exchanging electronic mail.
"Being a small independent software vendor, it is impossible for us to sell and market a product under a name used by a giant company such as Google. On these grounds we are in dialogue with Google, and we will investigate our rights relative to IIIR in the UK, and other companies that rather recently have started to use the Gmail trademark," says Sandry.
Despite capitulating over a name change to its new service in the UK, Google had previously described IIIR's claim as tenuous. It appears to dismiss the Norwegian software company's claim, too. "Norway is a country that requires registration in order to acquire trademark rights. Gallagher & Robertson does not own a registration for Gmail," said a company spokesperson.
Some critics have said that claimants such as IIIR are just out to make a quick profit, but Smith hit back at such accusations last week with an open letter in which he says that he has a duty to shareholders to protect the company's assets - and that Google ignored the company until the damage was done.
"We launched our service two years ahead of Google's own, and commercial exploitation of a trademark is absolutely central to gaining rights to that mark. Sure, we didn't register the trademark before we launched our product - but neither did Google before it launched its own. Our excuse is that we are small, and lack resources sometimes to do things the way we would like. The facts are that both our product launch and our trademark registrations precede those of Google. Google cannot substantiate its statement that our claim is tenuous."
Smith also says that Google made a very low offer of compensation. However, should Gallagher & Robertson discover any grounds, that could complicate matters further.
For the full article please follow this link to the Guardian Website.
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