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Google "Loses" Gmail in Europe 154

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the what's-in-a-name dept.
Hippie Hippie Shake writes to mention that Google has just lost the right to use the name 'Gmail' in Europe, according to the EU. "Daniel Giersch, a German-born 32-year old entrepreneur, has just announced that his company received a positive ruling last week from the Harmonization Office supporting his claim that "Gmail" and his own "G-mail" are confusingly similar. G-mail is a German service that provides a "gmail.de" email address, but also allows for a sort of "hybrid mail" system in which documents can be sent electronically, printed out by the company, and delivered in paper format to local addresses." It looks like "Google Mail" from here on out, at least in the Old Country."
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Google "Loses" Gmail in Europe

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:47PM (#17833606)
    and slashdot smells it! news at 11!
    • Re:Google farts! (Score:5, Informative)

      by x_MeRLiN_x (935994) * on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:13PM (#17834068) Homepage
      Of course, we're still able to use our @gmail.com addresses. All this means is that users in the EU who didn't sign up before 2005 (and are therefore much less likely to care) missed the boat. Nobody really loses. European techies will continue to call it GMail.

      All in all, a non-issue.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gerrysteele (927030)
        If you have a blahblah@googlemail.com does blahblah@gmail.com not work anyway?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tim C (15259)
          Having just tested it myself (I'm in the UK and signed up for this address mid- to late 2006), yes they both work. Interestingly, on this occasion while my test mail using "@gogglemail.com" was delivered within a second or two, the one I sent using "@gmail.com" took a minute or two to arrive. Given that this is only a single test, though, that might be coincidental.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rucs_hack (784150)
        I got my gmail.com address in the UK before all this trouble, and if I send an invite to myself and create a mail account for someone I can still get them gmail.com addresses.

        I don't know why this is, but it's very handy.
      • by mrmeval (662166)
        Since they defacto recinded the 'do no evil' clause they could refuse to index any site at gmail.de.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kevin_conaway (585204)

      Quit stealing my thunder [slashdot.org] (fart pun well intended!

  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:49PM (#17833630) Homepage
    Daniel Giersch, a German-born 32-year old entrepreneur, has just announced that his company received a positive ruling last week from the Harmonization Office supporting his claim that "Gmail" and his own "G-mail" are confusingly similar.

    That's not something a few hundred million dollars can't fix.
    • by garcia (6573) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:54PM (#17833752) Homepage
      That's not something a few hundred million dollars can't fix.

      You mean "That's not something a few hundred million dollars in stock can't fix."
    • by zerosix (962914)
      One would think he could just change the name to "G-spotmail". Would deffinately be a traffic getter!
    • Actually, i think it would be a good idea to be registering GSomethings and iSomethings, just in case...
    • why spend millions in cash and resources into keeping the name "gmail" when "google mail" works just as good? unless there is good reason to believe that "gmail" will turn a higher profit than "google mail", spending such money is "illegal" since it is a waste of company resources and not wat is best for the financial interests of the company.
  • Well? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sebisor (311819) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:50PM (#17833650) Homepage
    Congratulations Daniel. Looks like in EU at least the David can defeat Goliath.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by SamuelDr (1017644)
      Not the David, The Daniel. His name is Daniel.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by charlieman (972526)
        And not the Goliath, the Google. It's Google.

        No wonder one day I opened my account and the logo changed to Google Mail...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's kind of funny. If this had been a big corporation taking the name away from a little guy [wikipedia.org] everyone would be up in arms about how unjust this practice is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Otto (17870)
        Only if the little guy registered his domain first.

        Unfortunately, in this case, denic.de isn't giving enough info in their whois lookups to tell when gmail.de was registered.

        So it's hard to know who to root for.
        • by pbhj (607776)
          The domain appears to have been extent prior to 25 Feb 2004.

          http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://gmail.de [archive.org]

          However, the first two archived pages are error messages so it's not clear if this was being used for an email service. If this was a registered trade mark then it wouldn't matter as the Nice Classification for marks is Telecoms (which surely encompasses websites) - I'm not sure how it works with unregistered marks though.

          http://oami.europa.eu/CTMOnline [europa.eu] from OHIM (the European TM registry) shows the earli
        • by 3247 (161794)
          I don't know when the domain was registered. However, the German trademark "G-mail ...und die Post geht richtig ab." (30025697.3) was registered in 2000. Yes, 2000 as in "last year of last millennium".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Throtex (708974)
        That's not funny; it's sad. Intellectual property rights are demonized by those who don't understand them. While there are certainly intelligent arguments to be made about the scope of trademark, patent, copyright, trade secret, and antitrust law, you won't find it here.
        • That's not funny; it's sad. Intellectual property rights are demonized by those who don't understand them.

          You could say the same thing about god. I'd certainly demonize the 'god' of the old testament. In fact, 'demonic' seems downright appropriate for that particular imaginary menace.

          And I don't believe that there is any such thing as 'intellectual property' so its not as if I don't believe in it (ie believe that it is a bad idea) I just don't believe that it *exists* full stop. Its just make-believe. Much
          • by Throtex (708974)
            It's legal fiction, sure. I don't think you'll find any attorney who would disagree with you. There are a lot of legal fictions, but they exist because we've determined through the ages (and the concept of IP, especially trademarks, is really old) that they are beneficial to the progress of commerce and the useful arts and sciences.
            • Like the corporation as a 'legal person'. And I don't think that 'beneficial' nor 'useful' apply to either.

              And I still disbelieve in it.
              • by Throtex (708974)
                There are arguments to be made as to why we shouldn't have patents and copyrights -- I've yet to hear anything worthwhile for why there shouldn't be a system of trademarks. What's so wrong about being able to know who makes what and what reputation to associate with a name?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Congratulations Daniel. Looks like in EU at least the David can defeat Goliath.

       
      In the U.S., it takes The Donald to defeat the Rosi...errr Goliath. ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by damista (1020989)
      Yes and no. Generally, I think it is a good thing, that the "underdog" can win for a change. My problem with the ruling is though, that the name Giersch owns is not "G-Mail" as stated in the article but "G-Mail...und die Post geht richtig ab" (sorry, really hard to translate if it's supposed to make sense). While "G-Mail" and "Gmail" may be easily confused, I don't think there's any real danger to confuse "G-Mail...und die Post geht richtig ab" with "Gmail".
      • by haupz (970545)

        There is no such danger indeed. Basically, that Giersch guy is just someone who smells money in the opportunity to kick a large company up the arse. A plain nuisance, nothing else. Ridiculously enough, he is said to be right by German justice. Completely not understandable.

        Those two cannot possibly be confused with each other unless you're some creepy kind of lawyer that manages to convince some clueless judge of their idiot opinion.

        Craziness. Ah, well. Let the Giersch guy be happy 'bout himself and rej

        • by jlarocco (851450)

          There is no such danger indeed. Basically, that Giersch guy is just someone who smells money in the opportunity to kick a large company up the arse. A plain nuisance, nothing else. Ridiculously enough, he is said to be right by German justice. Completely not understandable.

          I completely agree that it's ridiculous. But after seeing a whole bunch of huge companies win BS lawsuits like this one, it's nice to see one of them get shafted for a change. It's petty and childish, but that doesn't make it any les

  • by lecithin (745575) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:50PM (#17833660)
    "Daniel Giersch, a German-born 32-year old entrepreneur, has just announced that his company received a positive ruling last week from the Harmonization Office supporting his claim that "Gmail" and his own "G-mail" are confusingly similar."

    Translation -

    "Daniel Giersch, a German-born 32-year old entrepreneur, has just announced"

    That he is now G-Uber Rich!
  • by Lanoitarus (732808) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:52PM (#17833714)
    I think this is the first time Ive ever heard of where a company has succesfully been challenged and lost the right to a name while a product was still in "beta". Its already Google Mail in the UK, no? I wonder if this large a swath of the world will cause google to just rebrand the whole thing google mail for everyone, just for continuity and branding's sake. As much as I like the name Gmail and would be sad to have to say something longer all the time, it does look to my first cursory glance like this was a legit claim as opposed to cybersquatting, so perhaps its the right thing.
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:14PM (#17834080) Journal
      As much as I like the name Gmail and would be sad to have to say something longer all the time

      Um.... yeah. This definitely makes the list of things that make me sad.
    • Well, they might rebrand it, but people are going to go nuts if they actually change the email addresses in other countries away from "gmail.com" ones; so regardless of whether it says "Google Mail" or "Gmail" at the top of the page, GMail is what most folks in English speaking countries are going to call it, I suspect.

      Really, I think that Google is just going to wait a while, and then once the media coverage has disappeared, buy this guy's domain. Having "gmail.cc" for every other First World CC in the wor
      • by metlin (258108) *
        Well, this ruling would only apply to gmail.de, right? It seems unlikely that it would apply to gmail.com, as well.

        In that case, German Gmail users suffer - of course, given how EU laws work, European Gmail users suffer.

        Secondly, the services provided are quite different (similar to Apple Records and Apple Computer, pre-Apple, Inc. of course).

        But you're probably right. There is no problem that large amounts of moolah can't solve. ;)
    • by Dan100 (1003855)
      You're right, it is now Google Mail in the UK. But I've yet to see a "googlemail.com" address (maybe not many people have signed up since the change?), and everyone I know still calls the service Gmail.
      • by kbox (980541)
        people have signed up. But if you sign up as username@googlemail.com you still recieve mail sent to username@gmail.com, so people sign up with a googlemail.com account, and use a gmail.com email addy.
    • by johansalk (818687)
      Who cares. Yes, it is @googlemail in the UK, but nonetheless, if you sign up with an @googlemail address and send yourself an @gmail message you'd still get it. I therefore, though I have a @googlemail address, still give people a @gmail one and still get all they write to me.
    • by kjart (941720)

      I think this is the first time Ive ever heard of where a company has succesfully been challenged and lost the right to a name while a product was still in "beta".

      So it should be OK while in 'beta', but once it's launched and available for the general public, that's a different story? Oh wait....

  • Good for him! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by posterlogo (943853) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:54PM (#17833748)
    ...because he legitimately had use of the G-mail term in advance. But if he's smart, he'll either capitalize on the name recognition and make a really nice mail portal system, or sell to Google. Providing a somehow "inferior" product under that name might not work out so well in the long run.
  • by adambha (1048538)

    From the article:

    Giersch, who said in an interview last year that "Google's behavior is very threatening, very aggressive and very unfaithful, and to me, it's very evil."

    Of course, very few people would describe lawyers on the other side of the courtroom with any 'nice' adjectives, especially lawyers working for a Goliath of a US corporation. Saying 'very evil' is a bit of a strech.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by vertinox (846076)
      Saying 'very evil' is a bit of a strech.

      Maybe when you say "bad" in German it literally translates to "very evil!!!!" Ever see a German say "I love you" to another German? I'm not sure but it always looks like the couple wants to tear each others throats out when they say it.
    • by stiggle (649614)
      Not really.
      If the companys motto is "Do No Evil" and then they behave in an evil way - threatening and hassling a legitimate domain owner, then they are definately not sticking with their motto.

      A bigger Google was always going to develop more evil.
  • by Elentari (1037226)
    The @googlemail addresses are too long and clumsy. I made use of a US based proxy when I signed up for my account to ensure I'd get the more succinct gmail version. Bloody Germans.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      err... not saying that was pointless but..

      PING gmail.com (216.239.57.83) 56(84) bytes of data.
      PING googlemail.com (216.239.57.83) 56(84) bytes of data.
    • by asc99c (938635)
      It's always been Googlemail here in the UK, but I still got a gmail address - I don't think it was ever made difficult to get gmail.com here - I seem to remember I just had to pick which I wanted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by meme lies (1050572)
      The @googlemail addresses are too long and clumsy. I made use of a US based proxy when I signed up for my account to ensure I'd get the more succinct gmail version. Bloody Germans.


      Yeah damn the Kraut for having the name first, as well as a legitimate trademark and a business in full operation. Don't blame Google for failing to do their homework, or for assuming "the little guy" would let himself be bought out for a relatively trivial sum ($250,000; yes it's a large number but the "gmail" name is worth man
    • by dotdash (944083)
      You were OK until you said

      Bloody Germans
      I find your use of that phrase in very poor taste. It makes me almost want to suggest that your comment be marked a flamebait.
  • This is news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AusIV (950840) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:07PM (#17833962)
    I heard about this quite a while ago. A quick google search reveals: Gmail Trademark in Dispute [internetnews.com] (if you don't want to click it, it's an article on the subject dated August 12, 2004). This may be another instance of someone claiming rights to it, but it certainly isn't the first place Google has lost the GMail trademark.
  • Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. As has been suggested elsewhere, perhaps Google can simply buy him? I wonder how much it's worth to them.

    -John Mark
    Hyperic Community Outreach

  • Article says he was offered $250K [wonder if that's cash?]... damn I'd sold. Used the money to tour the world, then apply for a job at Google.de

    Tom
    • $250K? Yeah, I'd love it too. However, I bet the next offered transaction has another zero at the end of it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tomstdenis (446163)
        doubt it. Something tells me google isn't the company to reach out twice.

        I mean yeah, it's good that the guy has character and defends his creation [G-mail that is]. But I dunno, if google wanted to give me 250K for libtom.org I'd be finding a pen.

        Tom
        • by Splab (574204)
          Seriously, what is it with you and whining about people not being interested in your stuff?

          First, find a more describing name, libtom does what now? Ohh it's a big collection of cryptographic stuff, well that was evident from the name.

          Second, keep your site to the point, if you are trying to get people to use libtom, then don't use the site for random rants about other peoples software, show why you are the best!

          And finally, if you really think yours is so much better than existing implementations (I highly
          • You think LibTom is new? Dude, I've been at this since 2001. I HAVE posted benchmarks, comparisons, snippets and all that. I have advanced the OSS world of crypto fairly well. TFM is amongst the fastest OSS math libs in the world, beats OpenSSL on some platforms, matches it on the others. It's also public domain. LTC sports various elliptic curve implementations that give it a very high performance rating, easily beating out all other OSS implementations of ecc (hint: none of them have fixed point or
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If he had a money-making business that's identified with the name, 250k is too low. He didn't seem to be the mom's basement type, either.
    • Re:$250K? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by naChoZ (61273) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @09:33PM (#17836844) Homepage Journal

      Article says he was offered $250K [wonder if that's cash?]... damn I'd sold. Used the money to tour the world, then apply for a job at Google.de

      You'd be throwing away a bunch of money. A few years ago, a small mom-n-pop cable tv company out in New Mexico owned the roadrunner.com domain. My employer, a certain other, much larger cable modem company was understandably interested in that domain and they offered the owner a similar 250K low-ball figure.

      The owner had an idea of what it would be worth to them so she declined. Then the larger company tried the bully approach, taking her to court and citing trademark infringement, etc. She knew she would probably win since it's the state bird of NM and had been part of the name of her company all along. She was right and she won the case. The larger company knew they were going to have to cough up the dough if they wanted that domain and they did. 8 figures worth.

    • by oliderid (710055)
      gmail.de is a popular web service in Germany and in germanspeaking countries. I know this brand for years. The offer is ridiculous IMHO.

  • well, how nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oohshiny (998054) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:16PM (#17834106)
    "Daniel Giersch, a German-born 32-year old entrepreneur, has just announced that his company received a positive ruling last week from the Harmonization Office supporting his claim that "Gmail" and his own "G-mail" are confusingly similar.

    So when his rather stupid venture tanks (several people have tried his kind of service before), he can at least get some money for the domain name.
    • by LizardKing (5245)

      Err, Gierschs company has been around a while, probably a lot longer than Google - so it wasn't some attempt to cash in on the fact that Google is now a very wealthy company.

  • by ScentCone (795499)
    I'm sorry, but I just can't take seriously any ruling made by the "Harmonization Office." Is that the same German ministry that issued the mandate about being especially nice to children? Oh well, we all know he's just going to eventually sell the domain to Google anyway. Resistence (to the cash) will be futile.
  • Seems there's been a lot of heat around Google.de [infoworld.com] lately.

    On the bright side for the new owner, one had to wonder if he'll simply attempt to sell the domain, or keep it for his own G-Mail app.

    Considering the amount of incoming links, that has to be the best SEO deal ever!
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:47PM (#17834588)
    Instead of 'g' for Google, they could use 'e' for Europe - and call it something like E-mail or somesuch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iphayd (170761)
      What's really funny is that it can't really stand for (G)erman- Mail, as if it was tailored to actual Germans, wouldn't it be (D)eutschland-Mail?

      • by kv9 (697238)

        What's really funny is that it can't really stand for (G)erman- Mail, as if it was tailored to actual Germans, wouldn't it be (D)eutschland-Mail?

        I was thinking more like Z-Mail, as in mail for zee germans [imdb.com]

      • G for Giersch, perhaps?
  • Ah, good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085)
    I'm glad to see that some courts are coming to their senses and realizing that sticking a "G" or "i" in front of something doesn't necessarily make it a trademark.
    • by Throtex (708974)
      Actually, not only does it make perfect sense for something like "Gmail" to be trademarkable, it's a decently strong mark (suggestive? possibly even arbitrary). If I say I have a Gmail address, what do you think I'm referring to? If you associate it with the Google service, then there's your justification for its trademark status right there.
      • by JoshJ (1009085)
        Yeah, I phrased that poorly. What i really meant was that:
        It certainly shouldn't be to the point where Gwhatever or iWhatever are automatically considered trademark infringement, like that controversy over the ivibrator (or whatever it was called) a while back.
        • by Throtex (708974)
          True ... but only because there are other instances of usage. If Apple had the first usage of iSomething, and then went about making a few other iProducts, and on top of that no one else entered the iStuff market when there was still a chance, people would likely come to associate iWidget exclusively with Apple. Only then would their influence extend over the entire iThingamajig product range.

          Think about it this way: if I opened up a supermarket and called it Ford Supermarket, do you think the Ford Motor
  • This quote

    Giersch, who said in an interview last year that "Google's behavior is very threatening, very aggressive and very unfaithful, and to me, it's very evil."
    reminds me of a UserFriendly cartoon [userfriendly.org]
  • just buy the guy out? His service sounds like something they would like to provide anyway.
  • Just call it Google GMail. Problem solved. No confusion whatsoever.
  • This is BS. How does this affect gmail.com, registered in the US? As far as I can see, anyone anywhere in the world can sign up a gmail.com account without prejudice. The company is based in the US; they're not marketing gmail.de, it's gmail.com. It's not even g-mail.com. How can the EU prevent its citizens using gmail.com, and require that they use g-mail.de (or whatever) instead?
    • by smurfsurf (892933) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:48AM (#17838680)
      > How does this affect gmail.com, registered in the US?

      Not at all. Nobody claimed otherwise.

      > The company is based in the US;

      But they operate in the EU as well and have quite some offices, so Google as a cooperation has to adhere to local laws for business they do in the EU. The physical location of the server does not matter.

      > they're not marketing gmail.de, it's gmail.com

      They are marketing a "GMail" service (no TLD). Google wants to use "GMail" as a name (the domain is just a bonus, the dispute is about the trademark "GMail"), the current owner claims to have older trademark rights to the name in Germany.

      > How can the EU prevent its citizens using gmail.com,

      They don't prevent you at all. You can go to the US site and register and use this access.

      > and require that they use g-mail.de (or whatever) instead?

      Currently, Google may not use the name "GMail" for its service in Germany (= advertising and offering a service to the people in Germany under the name "GMail"), as this would infringe an older trademark hold by some other guy. A trademark must not be 100% identical (gmail vs g-mail), if it concerns the same field of business and bears a high probability of being confused (and some other additional conditions). This is the current situation in this legal dispute.
  • Is it just me or does the "Harmonization Office" sound like something straight out of a George Orwell novel? Its name vaguely reminds me of the Ministry of Peace from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Should we call it HarmOff in Newspeak?
  • Some clarifications (Score:5, Informative)

    by elbrecht (211105) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @09:49PM (#17837018)
    1) There are ongoing disputes still in court. This is not the end of the story

    2) according to discussions on heise.de this guy has probably registered his trademark between the start of gmail.com and the time google wanted to register gmail.de, they DO own g-mail.de

    3) the trademark actually is "G-Mail ... und die Post geht richtig ab!" whole slogan WITH hyphen.

    4) German trademark law DOES provide ways to see if registering was in "bad faith", and that is not dealt with in the EU, but Germany. That could turn the whole story.

    5) He DOES NOT provide service. What he announced is "ready next month" for like all the years since he registered the domain. Probably vaporware.

    6) Registering a trademark s.o. else is using in another country and designing vaporware is what 4) is about: straight way to lose the tm.

    Some people also told he sort of knew that gmail in the internet was "taken", but discussions did not provide promised sources and no one at heise.de jumped in.

    All in all looks like david-goliath, but also symicron-explorer so stay tuned. But keep in mind actual deals of Mr. Giersch are tell tale by himself and not at all confirmed. He might just be some greedy jerk with a rip off scam in trademark law.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @09:55PM (#17837068)
    Actually, Giersch's trademarked string in full length is "G-Mail ...und die Post geht richtig ab".

    This is a pretty lame phrase translating approximately to "G-Mail ...it really kicks ass", playing on the meaning of the phrase "die Post geht ab" = "it kicks ass" and "Post" = "(snail) mail".

    Due to the fact that his trademark in principle only covers the full length of the phrase, his standing in courts is not as strong as he pretends, and his registering was very close to google's announcement of their gmail service. His trademark is still challenged in court.

    Also, Giersch's company is in "we'll launch very soon, honest!" state for years now, the only progress being in regularly changing website designs. This is not as clear a "innocent David" vs. "corporate Goliath" situation as people outside of Germany tend to see. To me, this guy more looks like our very own tiny SCO.
  • Again the creation of top level domains was flawed.

    Here's what they should have done.

    1) All top level domains end in 2 letter country codes and move all the .com .net etc to .com.us and .net.us.

    2) So what would happen with slashdot.com after it got moved to slashdot.com.us?

    You first set your browser's country code. Most of us reading this would set this .us centric. In your browser you type in the URL slashdot.com and the browser will autmatically append .us. However the URL will still appear as slashdot.co
  • Unless your title was meant to tease the meaning of "loses".. I'd say that Google Loses "Gmail" in Europe would be more suiting

    [/troll]

  • Any evil corporation worth a damn would have squashed this little problem in a week!
  • EU gmail should change its name to GUmail.
  • They lawyers are "evil" but he says that for a reason. These are the BRIGHTEST PEOPLE ON EARTH, and they will eat you alive, no joke. He would have been wise to program the mail service himeself or hire someone to do it (80 hours for a small scale system). Right now is the time to settle for the 250k or whatever they are offering now considering the judgement IMO...
  • What's next?
    Google Earth instead of GEarth?
    Google Maps instead of GMaps?
    Google News instead of GNews?

    But... wait...
  • by Looke (260398)
    Hi, Slashdot. I'd just like to point out that there's a significant difference between "Europe" and "EU". Please don't redefine "European". That's newspeak. Thanks.

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