Last updated: October 19, 2005 6:43 pm

Google backs down over Gmail name

A tiny UK-based financial research company has forced Google, the internet search giant, to change the name of its popular e-mail service in the UK.

Google announced on Wednesday that its free web-based e-mail would be renamed GoogleMail after Independent International Investment Research claimed that the Gmail name infringed the trademark of its G-mail.

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The decision, along with a similar switch in Germany following an adverse court ruling there, will leave Google supporting a different brand for its e-mail service in two of the biggest European economies.

Incorporated in 1996 and listed on Aim in 2000, IIIR?s market capitalisation of about ?2.3m ($4.05m) is dwarfed by Google?s $86bn. The company also said that an independent assessment had valued its rights in the name at ?25m-?34m.

IIIR said Google?s launch confused customers of its G-mail ? short for Graphiti mail, which is not sold separately but forms part of its Pronet suite of products.

Shane Smith, chief executive, chairman and owner of 64 per cent of IIIR?s equity, said Google?s Gmail had created confusion for users of his company?s product. IIIR is pursuing trademark patents in the US and Europe.

?We are a very small company, trying to do some pretty advanced things with a pretty small budget,? Mr Smith said.

Google is very reluctant to provide a cash injection for IIIR and said the company demanded an ?exorbitant? amount to end the dispute.

?We certainly think the claims made by IIIR are tenuous and the decision has been made in the UK [to change the name] because of the potential for uncertainty, which we don?t want to impose on our users,? said Nigel Jones, Google?s Europe counsel.

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