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Google Loses Gmail Trademark Case 293

Posted by samzenpus
from the ooglemail-coming-soon dept.
amigoro writes "A court in Germany today banned Google from using the name 'Gmail' for its popular webmail service following a trademark suit filed by the founder of G-Mail. Daniel Giersch, started using the name G-Mail in 2000, four years before Google released 'Gmail'. "Google infringed the young businessman's trademark that had been previously been registered," said the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in its judgement."
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Google Loses Gmail Trademark Case

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  • Legitimate Case? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GizmoToy (450886) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:28PM (#19749009) Homepage
    Sounds like the guy had a legitimate case. I'm sure that it cost him a fortune to defend a suit against Google. I'm surprised Google thought they could win this one. Isn't case law in this area pretty strong? Nissan.com I think is the traditional example.
    • by fosterNutrition (953798) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:41PM (#19749111) Journal
      I agree, it sounds to me like the issue is completely in Mr. Giersch's favour. Apparently the courts thought so too:

      "As far as the Hanseatic Higher Court is concerned, the legal situation is unambiguous to the extent that it has not allowed an appeal to the Federal Court of Justice"

      What bothers me about this issue, though is the following:

      Google has filed lawsuits against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

      "Google has announced, at least in writing, to 'fight' my client abroad for as long as it takes before he drops the legal claims lodged in Germany," Eble confirmed.
      In other words, the case seems completely in the German fellow's favour, both from a common-sense point of view (G-Mail versus GMail, started using it four years earlier), and from a legal point of view (see the court decision quoted above), yet Google is still fighting the issue. As much as I love the GMail service, I have got to say that to me, this reeks of big money betting they can wear this guy down. He can't afford to retain a lawyer for ever, and I'm sure they know that. Hardly not evil, Google.
      • by wikinerd (809585) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:55PM (#19749207) Journal

        Hardly not evil, Google.
        The funny thing here is that as long as this legal battle continues, more and more people learn about the young businessman's services, while at the same time Google's reputation as a "do no evil" company is challenged. I can't see any profit for Google here, monetary or otherwise. I wonder why they continue pursuing this case. Furthermore, the name they chose for their email services is wrong. GMail says nothing. They should have made it GoogleMail, since this would allow people unfamiliar with the service to quickly apply Google's reputation on GoogleMail. Surprisingly as it may seem, there are A LOT of people who do use the Internet and still do not know about GMail. But I'm sure they would know it better if it was named GoogleMail, since most Internet users have at least heard of Google.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by timmarhy (659436)
          why does any super rich company waste their time? ego. the top guys don't like to be told what to do, because once you have all the money you will ever need, there's nothing but ego to fight for.
        • by rtb61 (674572)
          I think you fail to take into account the arrogance of corporations, especially marketing companies like google. You have got marketdroid types who think they control public opinion, every body else is stupid and only they are smart because they think they can get us to believe any lies they want to tell.

          Google is just showing itself to be more and more the company that for marketing purposes it is pretending not to be, I wonder how many of his private details that fellow in Germany would be willing to ha

        • by samkass (174571) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:03PM (#19749661) Homepage Journal
          If 10 years ago someone told me the biggest company on the internet would be an advertising agency that used the phrase "do no evil" and people believed them I would have said they were on crack. Alas, it seems to be the case.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cp.tar (871488)

            They actually use the phrase 'don't be evil'. The difference, as I see it, is that 'do no evil' paralyzes you when you have to choose among two evils; 'don't be evil' just makes sure that whatever evil you choose, you choose with the best intentions.

            Of course, the road to hell and all that...

        • Re:Legitimate Case? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Tim C (15259) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @02:34AM (#19751147)

          the name they chose for their email services is wrong. GMail says nothing. They should have made it GoogleMail
          The funny thing is that they do in fact own the googlemail.com domain, which redirects to mail.google.com (as does gmail.com), and all their branding calls the service "Google Mail". In fact, the log in page says that mobile access is available "by pointing your phone's web browser to http://googlemail.com/app [googlemail.com]".
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Nah, gmail is a much better name. First you have the brevity thing, which is always handy. Second, it rhymes with "e-mail", which is good marketing. Easy when telling people your address "'gmail' like 'email', only with a 'g' instead of an 'e'". Of course, they COULD call it "googlemail" and still use "gmail". They call it "Google Maps" but the url is "maps.google.com", just like gmail actually takes you to "mail.google.com."
      • Re:Legitimate Case? (Score:4, Informative)

        by ozbird (127571) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:19PM (#19749789)
        What bothers me about this issue, though is the following:

        Google has filed lawsuits against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

        "Google has announced, at least in writing, to 'fight' my client abroad for as long as it takes before he drops the legal claims lodged in Germany," Eble confirmed. In other words, the case seems completely in the German fellow's favour, both from a common-sense point of view (G-Mail versus GMail, started using it four years earlier), and from a legal point of view (see the court decision quoted above), yet Google is still fighting the issue.


        And? Giersch has proven that his trademark is valid in Germany. Google are within their rights to test it in neighbouring countries to determine whether whatever steps they need to do in Germany (e.g. call in "GoogleMail") also have to be done elsewhere. That in and of itself is not "evil".
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ClosedSource (238333)
          Well, it's not Hitler evil, but it's the same degree of evil that MS is often accused of. Besides, if you're going to stand up on your high horse and say that your motto is "do no evil", than you'd better hold yourself to a higher standard than those who make no such claim.
        • Re:Legitimate Case? (Score:5, Informative)

          by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @04:19AM (#19751675) Homepage
          More to the point he only started registering his trademark abroad after GMail itself launched. Read the article, he registered G-Mail as a trademark in Switzerland in 2005.
    • Re:Legitimate Case? (Score:5, Informative)

      by stimpleton (732392) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:51PM (#19749187)
      Nissan.com I think is the traditional example.

      Quick link to why this is a traditional example:
      http://nissan.com/Digest/The_Story.php [nissan.com]
    • by Fordiman (689627)
      This is all very nice, but will my gmail account change hands or names?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        fordiman@gmail.com [mailto] and fordiman@googlemail.com [mailto]

        Try both; supposedly either one will reach your account. And both sites gmail.com and googlemail.com should reach your account to login. So I assume that your "@gmail.com" will be fine.

        Plus it only applies to gmail.de unless Google feels like that's enough to redefine the whole GMail trademark globally. Either way, if you're concerned, start referring people to your email @googlemail.com.

        Oh yeah, you'll probably want to set a filter for those "mailto"s...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stephan Schulz (948)

      I'm sure that it cost him a fortune to defend a suit against Google.
      Probably not a cent. Germany has a loser-pays court system. For such a trivial case I would expect the lawyer to work for the standard fees, so all of that would be borne by Google.
  • this seems to be a fairly localized decision mainly in germany but possibly Switzerland and Spain in the future, so what is going to become of google's email system in these areas? do they look at the IP address to determine where you reside and modify accordingly? what does Google intend to call Gmail in the relevant areas now?

    Google has filed lawsuits against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. "Google has announced, at least in writing, to 'fight' my client abroad for as long as it takes befor

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bibz (849958)

      what does Google intend to call Gmail in the relevant areas now?

      How about GoogleMail ?
      • by Ngarrang (1023425)

        what does Google intend to call Gmail in the relevant areas now?

        How about GoogleMail ?
        geemail.com *grin*
  • Smart businessman (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wikinerd (809585) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:42PM (#19749119) Journal
    This looks like a smart young businessman. Fighting Google instead of selling a name means he gets publicity, and it looks like he is sure that he can turn this publicity into profit for his company and himself. Bad to hear Google preferred to fight him in courts instead of trying to find a way to get him on board. This is the way of big bureaucratic corporations that lack innovation, and I would expect smarter choices from a company that seeks to employ the brightest engineers. I guess such a smart (and resourceful, for being able to withstand so long against a giant) businessman would be an asset if Google could persuade him to join them. Now thanks to this legal battle, more people than previously know about his business, and this is only good for him and I am sure he knows it. I wonder what he is going to release in, say, 5 or 10 years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chiraz90210 (961309)
      "This is the way of big bureaucratic corporations that lack innovation," Lack innovation? ummmm.... oh well, it's slashdot!
      • by TheDugong (701481) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:55PM (#19750365)
        How are Google innovating?

        Syndicated advertisements existed long before Google
        Syndicated news existed long before Google
        Search engines existed before Google
        Web mail of various kinds existed long before Google
        Online versions of desktop applications existed before Google had them, albeit in a more simple form (limited by the technology at the time) e.g. yahoo calendar, yahoo notepad etc - The concept was there though.
        Deja news was bought by google and turned into google groups
        Online photos had existed long before google acquired picasa
        They bought google earth and online maps existed long before

        In summary,Google seems to copy or acquire and occasionally improve rather than innovate.

        They are very good at marketing though, much like MS really:

        Google were very lucky with viral marketing early on.
        MS was lucky with IBM and DOS.

        Google, to their credit have not lost focus on their bread and butter - search.
        MS have never lost their focus on OSes and Office Applications

        MS were heros until they got too big.
        Hmmm...

        Note: I am not against Google, but like any business, they would rip anyone off if they could get away with its so I never really understand this worshiping of businesses some geeks like to engage in.
    • by netsharc (195805)
      Not really, I live in Germany and all I can think to say to this lawsuit-happy dickhead is, "thanks, douchebag!"

      But I think the gmail.com addresses will still work, or I can just say I live in the US (oh the horrors!)
  • Major Suckage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:43PM (#19749127)
    I sure hope google doesn`t change the name of gmail globally.

    I personally use my gmail address for just about everything. It scares me to think about how long it would actually take to go around and change my email address on all the various services I use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wikinerd (809585)
      If this case was filled in America, I wouldn't be surprised if the judge reasoned that the "collective rights" of thousands of email users surpassed the rights of a single businessman, even if he started using the name 4 years earlier.
      • by MBraynard (653724)
        Why? Beacuse the country is run by Furor Bush and Haliburton and Big Business?

        Thanks for presenting the slash herd viewpoint. If you are interested in learning the truth about how these cases go down, talk to RIM, Inc. about how such cases get decided 'in America.'

      • by Kristoph (242780) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:40PM (#19749475)
        If this case was filed in America this 'single businessman' would probably be worth a discernible percentage of the NASDAQ.

        ]{
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        whats makes you say that? america is far more likely to back business.
    • by Firehed (942385)
      You can change the branding while retaining all of the existing data. The only @gmail.xx emails that would likely be affected here are gmail.de. There's no way they'd kill off @gmail.com, though it would be entirely plausible that they'd add in @googlemail.com or something of the same nature were they to change the branding.
    • Re:Major Suckage (Score:4, Informative)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:50AM (#19751525)
      This has already happened to google in the UK for a similar trademark reason. Signing up for an account in the UK (you get a drop down box to select country) means you get a googlemail.com address rather than a gmail.com one. However, the site you goto for your email doesn't change - it's actually run under the google.com domain if you look at the address bar, but you are redirected there from both gmail.com and googlemail.com

      Conveniently, you still receive bob@gmail.com email at your bob@googlemail.com address, so despite the interface branding you can just use the gmail.com as your published address if you wish. I don't see them changing the gmail interface globally in those countries they don't need to.
  • Name change? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Laukei (1099765) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:55PM (#19749201)
    They call it Googlemail in Germany, and the UK, where the name Gmail was owned by another company. Pre-existing @gmail.com addresses registered by UK users were left as they were, while new signups changed to @googlemail.com.
  • G, Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Seumas (6865) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:04PM (#19749247)
    I'm sure laws like this will change over time. After all in an increasingly global market, you can't afford for your trademark to be diluted by having a different name in each of six different geographical regions. I'm sure that someday the WTO will have something arranged so that the guy producing the most benefit from the trademark will win. If you came up with the trademark (or a copyrighted idea) twenty years ago and are using it to generate a million dollars in business per year, you have to surrender it to the bigger company who comes along and is making a billion dollars per year off of it.

    I would think that would fall into the whole imminent domain concept that they use to justify taking part of your property to build a strip mall or expand a road. Likewise, a billion dollars of business in your economy is more important to society than some piddly million dollar business using the same concept or trademark.

    Sad, but . . . I think that might be in our future.
    • Re:G, Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KarmaMB84 (743001) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:07PM (#19749691)
      I don't know if letting large corporation drive smaller competitors out of business simply by taking their trademarks would be wise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom (822)

      I'm sure that someday the WTO will have something arranged so that the guy producing the most benefit from the trademark will win. If you came up with the trademark (or a copyrighted idea) twenty years ago and are using it to generate a million dollars in business per year, you have to surrender it to the bigger company who comes along and is making a billion dollars per year off of it.

      And that would be good why, exactly?

      Look, if my business is doing well, and earning say 2-3 millions a year in a local market. Assume it's a good product, the customers are happy, everything is fine. Assume that it's a product that relies on brand recognition.
      Now along comes Giant Corporation Inc. with a similar-named product. It would nevertheless hurt my business considerably. You're saying that's ok and I and my customers have to suck it up simply because GCI is bigger?

  • iMail? (Score:3, Funny)

    by cashman73 (855518) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:19PM (#19749345) Journal
    I think I'm going to register iMail as a trademark,. . . and then sue Apple when they launch their new iPhone/iMac/iBook/iPod/iNausea email service! ;-)
  • Where? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Raere (735369) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:20PM (#19749357)
    So, does this only happen in Germany, or is Google banned from using Gmail internationally?
  • by santiago (42242) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:07PM (#19749687) Homepage
    gmail.com and googlemail.com are the same place. If you get an address on either, you can receive mail on both and check your mail on both. All that happens is that based on which country you're in, you'll get redirected around and wind up with a slightly different logo in the top left. That's it.
  • Do no evil???? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by syousef (465911)
    Yeah goes to show how much you can trust any large corporation to stick to their corporate slogan.

  • Anybody know who is the paying the legal costs?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Since Germany has a (mostly) sane legal system, and the judge found the case to be unambiguous, Google will have to pay his legal fees - which is as it should be, IMO.
  • Your Own Email (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @01:10AM (#19750763)
    And this is why I have my email hosted (along with web hosting) on my own domain name. First of all, it establishes a "non-generic" email address that's easy to remember (myname@lastname.com anyone?), instead of some weird randomuser127@hotmail or some other nonsense. Personally I recommend to everyone who is serious, especially contracting professionals, to get their own domain (or a family domain, or whatever) for email purposes. You never know if your current free email provider will one day start charging, or change their privacy policy, or in this case, be in danger of losing their domain name. For someone who is professionally connected, changing your email is an incredibly difficult task, and you stand to lose a lot of extremely valuable communication. I've been using my email address for years now, and I couldn't be happier. Since I host it, I get to connect to it however I damn well please. I can run the best webmail client on the server that I like, I can get at it with IMAP, POP, or any other method I see fit, and customize my spam blockers the way I like. It's truly miles above any of the free services out there, though Gmail probably has the best web client.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rizzo320 (911761)

      Since I host it, I get to connect to it however I damn well please. I can run the best webmail client on the server that I like, I can get at it with IMAP, POP, or any other method I see fit, and customize my spam blockers the way I like. It's truly miles above any of the free services out there, though Gmail probably has the best web client.

      Ironically, you can have Google [google.com] do this for you. So you can have the "best" web client. If you so choose, you could also have it hosted here [microsoft.com] and have the worst. :-

  • Looks like it's time to register and start using iApple. AFAIK, Apple is yet to utilize this trademark, and just a couple days ago paid 7 figures for iPhone.com.

    And yes, Google is completely wrong -- and evil -- here!

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