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Google Businesses The Internet Government The Courts News

New Legal Threat To GMail 526

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-you-can't-make-up dept.
wellington writes "Google is facing a renewed threat of legal action from a company that claims to own the intellectual property rights to its GMail e-mail service. Independent International Investment Research, a British company that specialises in research and has several leading City investment banks as clients, argues that it launched "G-Mail web based email" in May 2002."
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New Legal Threat To GMail

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  • by killmenow (184444) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:38AM (#13546513)
    Google's is called GMail BETA
  • G? (Score:5, Funny)

    by SuperJason (726019) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:39AM (#13546517) Homepage
    So they claim that they own the G?
  • Fight Google? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by linuxinit (902010)
    Ha! As much as I'd love to root for the little guy... I don't think they can fight Google... :( Google is getting pretty big lately. I can't help but wonder about some of the rumours that I've heard...
    • About the babies and the fell, wicked ceremonies?

      It is all true.
    • by Marc2k (221814) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:20AM (#13546953) Homepage Journal
      The article makes it seem like this company's "GMailTM web-based email" service doesn't even exist. Phrases like: "The idea was that", "it launched "G-MailTM web based email" in May 2002", etc. all talk of this 'service' in the past tense, there's no speak of whether or not this product still actually is still in existence. Granted, they still own the rights to the trademark, and one of the stipulations of owning a trademark is that you police yours. Still, why would a company with a deceased (presumably, because let's face it..this company would be suing Google whether or not they still actually maintained the service) product/service sue a company, instead of merely not policing their TM, and releasing it "back into the wild"?

      Oh, that's right. Money. I'm guessing it went like this:
      • Trademark name.
      • Run mediocre project into the ground.
      • Begin talks with Google to try to get them to give you money, since you still own the trademark to a product that does not still exist.
      • Fail.
      • Send out press release to major news media, stating that you're going to sue Google, because there's no such thing as bad press.


      • Also, I'm kind of miffed that this keeps getting called an "intellectual property struggle". G'fuh? I remember back in the old days, we used to call them "trademark disputes". I wasn't aware that changing the first letter of a well-known contraction for "electronic mail" was a rigorous intellectual task. If that's your claim to fame, you're an idiot.

    • Re:Fight Google? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MOBE2001 (263700)
      I don't think they can fight Google...

      Yes they can. They just need the right law firm. Google has a lot of money and everybody wants a piece of it. The IP hoarders deserve to be constantly at each other's throats, IMO. If you live by the sword, you will perish by the sword. Well, you will at least get hurt. Didn't Oracle have to pay 100 million US dollars or so to settle an IP-related suit just recently? Companies are like kids fighting over who the toys belong to. When will they wake up and grow up? It is
      • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @10:12AM (#13547515) Journal
        Answer: Greed
        Good day, sir.

        I am John William Babbittworth, of the law firm Thompson, Richards, Williamson, Heresford, Babbittworth, Jones and Spencer law firm.
        We represent the interests of Independent International Investment Research, which has exclusive trademark rights to all words beginning by the letter "G"...

      • Re:Fight Google? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mollymoo (202721) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @10:41AM (#13547773) Journal
        The IP hoarders deserve to be constantly at each other's throats, IMO.

        The IP in question is a trademark (awful journalism banging on about 'owning the intellectual property rights to the GMail service'). I take it you think Linus is an IP hoarder too, because Linux is trademarked.

        This seems like a perfectly straightforward trademark dispute to me. No glaring flaws in this area of intellectual property law that I can see. This kind of dispute does not deserve to be lumped in with the ridiculous patents and copyright excesses we've seen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:39AM (#13546521)
    Google should give them 50% of the profits from GMail.

    Let's see, a free email service generating $0 profit. 50% of $0 equals $0.

    Settled.
    • Re:Fair's fair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Professeur Shadoko (230027) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:41AM (#13546552)
      zero ?

      and what about the ads ?

      free != zero-profit.
    • Re:Fair's fair... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by porksoda (253218)
      Let's see, a free email service generating $0 profit. 50% of $0 equals $0

      you kidding me? those AdSense things generate what people in the biz refer to as a shitload of cash simply due to the sheer volume of people seeing them (and it helps that they're targeted to what your mail's about). sure, it's a free service but it's not like they're losing money on it or something.
    • yeah, but to be fair they should pay half of the expenses too.
    • Re:Fair's fair... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bleckywelcky (518520) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @11:05AM (#13547992)
      You joke, but IIR is already estimating how much their should receive for the mark. Looking at their website: www.iirgroup.com [iirgroup.com] and navigating through their press releases, you can find this one [iirgroup.com] entitled GmailTM web-based email trade mark valuation report. Guess how much they are estimating? Directly from the PDF: $48million to $64million. How did they arive at this number? Well, Google's annualized revenues are $3,224million. And they pulled 0.5% out of the air as a "conservative" royalty rate (because we know that all of Google's revenues are due to ads placed in GMail), which gives us about $16million. And then they feel they deserve 3x to 4x that amount, and tada! We arrive at $48million to $64million. Now that is the most solid reasoning I have ever seen.
  • by Dopefish (33181) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:40AM (#13546535)
    I've actually already patented the use of single letters in front of "Mail", so they're both screwing me over.

    AMAil
    BMail
    CMail
    DMail
    etc.

    ALL MINE!

    Yeah, I'm Amazon.com. This whole "Dopefish" thing is just an alias.....
  • by Itchy Rich (818896) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:40AM (#13546537)
    Surely this is just trademark infringment at most. The summary seems to infer that general IP rights to the service are involved, rather than just the name.
    • ... the summary is correct, they're claiming:

      "IIR, led by chairman and chief executive Shane Smith, accused the search engine of "failing to respect the intellectual property rights of others" and said it had no alternative but to pursue an expensive legal action that it admitted it could ill afford."

      "I feel it is up to me as the founder and the major shareholder. We're not going to sit on the sidelines while a company uses our intellectual property rights," he said. "We're confident that we have the fundin
      • The summary is correct in that this is what the CEO is saying. The CEO is using "intellectual property" in the broadest sense - this is a trademark issue.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:04AM (#13546796)
        There is nothing called "Intellectual Property".

        Either you say:
        Trademark
        Copyright
        Patent

        But "Intellectual Property" is not a term you can use intelligently, only as a way to further the company propaganda-machine. This example clearly shows it is not suitable for intelligent readership. I heard this from RMS last time he visited Norway.
        • And what you've just said is:
          Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are the sorts of things designated by the general classification of intellectual property--but intellectual property doesn't exist!

          When people talk about intellectual property, they are talking about trademarks, copyrights, patents, or the ideas or information covered by same (books, inventions, company and product names and logos). Inasmuch as a piece of intellectual property does not exist, neither does any idea or piece of information. None
    • by stienman (51024) <adavis AT ubasics DOT com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:42AM (#13547184) Homepage Journal
      A trademark is intellectual property (IP).

      IP encompasses several "properties", some of which are:
      Copyrights
      Patents
      Trademarks
      Trade Secrets

      So the GMail service is accused of being in violation of the intellectual property of some other company.

      -Adam
      • In a broad sense, it *is* right. The only problem is that it it misleading. When I first went through the summary, I though GMail was using some of their actual code... you see... intellectual property.

        You maybe would want to say Intellectual Property if you are talking about trademarks, patents and/or copyright in, say, an article or a paper. But claiming you have intellectual property when you claim rights to a trademark is misleading. It's like claiming someone did "considerable economic damage" to you w
  • Attack ONE! (Score:5, Funny)

    by screevo (701820) <screevo@scree v o . com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:40AM (#13546545) Homepage Journal
    Steve Ballmer hires a minion to launch the first volley in the Internet War of 2005
  • Sounds legitimate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brucmack (572780) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:40AM (#13546548)
    Sounds like they have a legitimate claim here... They did launch a web-based email service called GMail well before Google. The fact that they've been negotiating with Google for the past 15 months would indicate that they also brought their claim to Google early on. I wonder why Google hasn't just paid them to license the name? Wouldn't they rather use some of their excess money reserves than risk a tarnished name?
    • I wonder why Google hasn't just paid them to license the name?

      It's a frikken G and a dash. The fact that Google would have to pay a company to use a G is just ridiculousness.

      This just highlights the ridiculousness that can be trademark laws.
      • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:11AM (#13546855) Homepage
        It's a frikken G and a dash. The fact that Google would have to pay a company to use a G is just ridiculousness.

        Yes, but had it been the other way around, you know very well that Google would not have been "good" and just looked the other way.

      • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:47AM (#13547240) Homepage Journal

        IIIR has no website which can be located by Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine that I've used.

        All that comes up are some investor reports like OneSource [onesourceexpress.com], which reports them as having a whole seven employees.

        Trademarks are not automatically international, and the mere presence of the "G" before "Mail" is not a trademark. Trademarks are either specific spellings (with/without hyphens), logos, icons, color combinations, etc.

        The lawsuit sounds like basic "trolling for dollars", legal style.

    • Re:Sounds legitimate (Score:2, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Actually there service is G-Mail not GMail.
      And the service is specific to the currency trading business. There is almost no overlap and the names are different. Yes it is by one character but when you only have five to start with that is significant.
      Frankly if the trademarks are not identical then I would say no case. But then Microsoft somehow has convinced people that they invented using "windows" in a GUI. I wonder when they will sue X-Windows?
      After all X-Windows is a lot closer to Windows than Lindows w
  • Aaarrgggh! (Score:5, Informative)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:41AM (#13546549) Homepage Journal
    intellectual property rights to its GMail e-mail service.
    Look, if you keep using the catch-all phrase "Intellectual Property" to cover distinct ideas, no one will ever get smart about the differences. This is about a trade mark "GMail" -- only the *name* is the important thing here.

    And they did register that trademark long in advance of Google.
    • Yes, this 'IP' nonsense is invariably a sign of someone that either doesn't understand what they're talking about, or doesn't want YOU to understand what they're talking about (or possibly both.)

      As to them registering their trademark first, that's true. However, that's not the end of the story. The trademarks are not identical - googles is 'Gmail' while theirs is 'G-Mail.' Gmail is a rather obvious abbreviation for 'Google Mail.' Their trademark is apparently UK only, and it doesn't sound like they've don

  • Vague Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:42AM (#13546553) Journal
    Wow, yet another vague summary, that can definitely be misleading. Having first read the summary, I thought it was about a company claiming to have created the code and/or services of Gmail only to have google steal it. But no, the company is merely sueing for trademark infringement. Way to go slashdot! The word "TRADEMARK" could have been mentioned somewhere in the article, would have cleared it up a tiny bit. But I guess Slashdot gets more pageviews (and ad views) by confusing its readers.
    • Re:Vague Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Omnifarious (11933) *

      No, it's all intellectual property. We have to use the word property, it's very important. Otherwise, how can we legitimately claim 'piracy' and 'stealing' if it's not property?

      Personally, I think the editors should put their money where their mouth is and summararily reject any story that uses the words 'intellectual property' in the article blurb.

  • rumors (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:42AM (#13546555)
    I heard that Google is planning on calling it's personalized homepage GSpot...
    • Re:rumors (Score:5, Funny)

      by earthloop (449575) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:55AM (#13546692) Homepage
      They wouldn't do that. Nobody would be able to find it!
      • Re:rumors (Score:5, Informative)

        by dustinbarbour (721795) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @01:10PM (#13549242) Homepage
        Easy... with you palm facing upwards, reach into the vagina with one or two fingers (3 or 4 after she's given birth to 3 kids). Now curl your fingers towards you in a "come here" motion. Woopee! You've found the G-Spot. What you're looking for is the continuation of the clit once it enters the body. Wanna be hardcore? Suck on her clit who=ile performing this "come here" motion and she'll be screaming your name in no time.

        The penis is a terrible tool to stimulate the G-Spot with. There are certain positions in which penile penetration can stimulate the G-Spot, but many women find them uncomfortable. So get in there with those fingers!

        • Re:rumors (Score:3, Funny)

          by cerberusss (660701)
          Suck on her clit while performing this "come here" motion and she'll be screaming your name in no time.

          That sounds like a lot of work to get her to scream your name. I just leave the fridge door open.

  • Two letters (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slapout (93640) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:44AM (#13546574)
    Why doesn't google just cough up another letter and call it "GoMail"? Or if that's taken "GoogMail", etc.
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:45AM (#13546586) Homepage
    The summary for this story is another good example of why the phrase 'intellectual property' should be avoided [gnu.org].

    The company does not 'claim to own the intellectual property to GMail'. It has a trademark claim. This is completely different and unrelated to any copyright interest, patent held, or trade secret. Lumping them all together as 'intellectual property' which can then be 'infringed' in some vague way just muddies the issue.
  • From TFA... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:45AM (#13546594)
    He [Mr. Smith] said he was "reluctantly" considering taking legal action against Google, which could involve his family trust selling shares in the group to fund the claim.

    "I feel it is up to me as the founder and the major shareholder. We're not going to sit on the sidelines while a company uses our intellectual property rights," he said. "We're confident that we have the funding available to us and we're girding our loins," he said.

    As much as they may have a case, I always find the "we don't want to, but they are forcing us" argument funny. Not because of the company itself, but because I can imagine some IP lawyers saying, "Yesss! They are being forccced to! Hisss!" as their forked tongues flick from their mouths and they rub thier greedy paws together with reptilian glint in their eyes.

    • Re:From TFA... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PhysicsPhil (880677)
      As much as they may have a case, I always find the "we don't want to, but they are forcing us" argument funny. Not because of the company itself, but because I can imagine some IP lawyers saying, "Yesss! They are being forccced to! Hisss!" as their forked tongues flick from their mouths and they rub thier greedy paws together with reptilian glint in their eyes.

      One of the problems with owning a trademark is that you must defend it or lose it. Unlike copyright, trademarks can be invalidated in court if they

    • by SirGeek (120712) <sirgeek-slashdot ... g ['mrs' in gap]> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @10:51AM (#13547854) Homepage
      As much as they may have a case, I always find the "we don't want to, but they are forcing us" argument funny. Not because of the company itself, but because I can imagine some IP lawyers saying, "Yesss! They are being forccced to! Hisss!" as their forked tongues flick from their mouths and they rub thier greedy paws together with reptilian glint in their eyes.

      Since when do reptiles have paws ?

  • by Sp00nMan (199816)
    Why doesn't Google just change the name from "Gmail" to "GoogleMail". They already have the domain for googlemail.com, and I think it would be a better branding option anyways.
  • gmail.com (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bookemdano63 (261600) <bookemdano@gmai l . com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:48AM (#13546624)
    But they never bother spending the $10 to register gmail.com?
  • I smell FISH (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What reason did this company have for naming it "gmail?" Where's the "G" in their company?

    You can't copyright a letter. Perhaps TFA was in error; it certainly wasn't very clear.

    I wish people would stop talking about "IP." Intelectual "property" is not property. If you're talking about a copyright infringement, don't say "my IP rights were violated," say "my copyright was infringed.

    I'm talking to those of you who are journalists or think you are. Er, wasn't there a /. article about how journalists are ignora
  • by symbolic (11752) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:49AM (#13546644)
    Google, the internet search engine, is facing a renewed threat of legal action from a company that claims to own the intellectual property rights to its GMail e-mail service.

    Is it just me, or is there something particularly novel and innovative about a browser-based e-mail service? Or, is there something particularly stupid about a company laying claims to this idea as its "intellectual property?" None of the concepts are particularly new.
  • Google's new online banking service, known as "gmoney BETA", has become another legal battle. [artistdirect.com].
  • .. is that people sue you. I do wonder why Google did not try a little harder to settle after their problems with the lawsuit in Germany.

    I have been using GMail for 18 months - I hope that they do not have to change the gmail.com domain name - that would be a nuisance.
  • Stupid issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:56AM (#13546703) Homepage Journal
    If a trademark is worthy of a multi million dollar claim, then it should be higher in the search engine listings than the news about the lawsuit.

    It just feels wrong otherwise.
  • Sounds like bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tassach (137772)
    If these folks had 'gmail' as a legitimate trademark for an actual product or service (not vaporware), why then did they not register the domain names for their alleged trademark? Registering "gmail" in every top-level domain for 10 years would have cost them less than $1000. If they actually had a legitimate business plan to launch a "gmail" service, securing the domains would have been the FIRST thing they would have done. Failing to register the domains, while trademarking a non-existant "service" smel
    • Re:Sounds like bull (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DJ Rubbie (621940) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:14AM (#13546881) Homepage Journal
      Interestingly, this British Company had to pick May of 2002 as the claimed launch date for their service. Take a look at the whois information for whois g-mail.com

      Registrant:
                      Google Inc. (DOM-1287346)
                      1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
                      Mountain View CA 94043
                      US

      Created on..............: 2002-May-20.
      Expires on..............: 2008-May-20.
      Record last updated on..: 2004-Nov-01 09:49:32.

      gmail.com, on the other hand, has been registered for a little while (since the 90's), wish I can find out since when it was transfered to Google.

      This company does not own gmail.co.uk or g-mail.co.uk either.
  • What!?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ifwm (687373) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:57AM (#13546716) Journal
    "We're not going to sit on the sidelines while a company uses our intellectual property rights"

    Has anyone even heard of these idiots?

    YOU PUT A G IN FRONT OF MAIL.

    Don't try to act like it's the light bulb, you snaggletoothed limey.
  • by mikael (484) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:59AM (#13546743)
    This lawsuit has been brought to the attention of your lawyers by the letter G, and the numbers 0 and 5.
  • by salimma (115327) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:02AM (#13546771) Homepage Journal
    Note that Google's Mail service is now accessible at mail.google.com? Pretty much all the g-prefixes have been removed.

    So they'll probably settle if necessary and just go on with Google Mail. Big deal.
    • by cabjf (710106) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:11AM (#13546860)
      Except that all the email addresses end with "@gmail.com." If google changed it to "@google.mail.com" or some similar name, everyone with a gmail account would have to change their email address.
      • Not at all. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phriedom (561200)
        Google could just trade under the "Google Mail" name, and advertise the mail.google.com addresses, but since they own gmail.com and are using it the gmail.com addresses could still continue to work, and jut forward to a comparable mail.google.com addresses. There would not have to be any distruption of service to the user, but the name would change.

        Unless g-mail can win the gmail.com name, that is another story. Right now they are just threatening to sue for trademark infringement.
    • Not to mention that you could access mail.google.com more or less since the service was introduced...
  • I really thought ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by DoktorTomoe (643004) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:06AM (#13546809)

    ... this was a german company, with its product named "G-Mail, und die Post geht richtig ab" [gemail.de] (roughly translated "G-Mail, and the mail really gets going"). They also tried to sue people selling GMail invitations on eBay [heise.de]. a legal case is open in Germany, and GMail is obliged by a court order not to give @gmail.com-adresses to german users - those ones get @googlemail.com adresses instead [which also work with gmail, but this is not yet well-documented.])

    The fact that the british and the german trademarks are so similar to each other makes me think... does anyone know if there are connections between those companies?

  • Use it or lose it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenisNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:15AM (#13546887) Homepage
    I could write a program to combine suffix/prefix combos to common words like "mail", "net", "service", "video", "sound", "conference"

    Then sue everyone 3 years afterwards?

    The fact they never even bought a domain name for the service [or advertised it broadly] suggests they're not seriously impacted by Googles actions because it's their own ineptitude that crippled any chance of making it big.

    Tom
  • Qmail (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erroneous (158367) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:20AM (#13546945) Homepage
    It's always interesting to turn these stories around and wonder how slashdot would react if the litigant were a beloved cause-celebre and the plaintiff a moustachioed villain.

    Like, for instance, if Microsoft released a mail product called "qmail".

    Seriously, do you think the same people would be posting "it's just a letter Q!"
  • by ccozan (754085) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:49AM (#13547265) Homepage
    Since a few months they changed the logo on the top left to a "Google Mail" logo, no longer "Gmail". So has a court ruled. See http://mail.google.com/mail/help/images/googlemail .gif [google.com]
    You can see that the domain serving the service is not gmail.com but mail.google.com.

    So i think, this UK company has seen the success of this action in Germany and tries to profit in the same way.

    Sincerelly, i don't really care how is it named, "Google Mail" makes more sense to me, even if i pronounce it as "geemail".
  • by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @10:16AM (#13547551) Homepage
    There's another instance of Gmail, too! Ghirardelli Chocolate [robert.to] has a Gmail service! As of two weeks ago, they were still calling it G-MAIL, and their use of the term goes back several years. I don't know if they've ever registered the trademark.

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