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Google dumps Gmail name in UK

Googlemail is the new black

Google's UK Gmail users may have to move to use a different email address in future, following a trademark spat with a UK firm.

A £3.2m stock-valued London-based firm called IIIR (Independent International Investment Research) filed suit over claims it began using the Gmail name two years before Google got round to it.

The two companies began talks about this, but these broke down over a disagreement on a financial settlement for use of the name.

As a result of the failure to reach a deal, Google has rebranded its service in the UK, calling it Googlemail.

Holders of existing Gmail addresses in the UK will be unaffected - at least, so Google hopes. New UK users will be given @googlemail.com addresses, though new users outside the UK get to use Gmail.com.

A statement on Google's website explains: "We are changing our service's name in the UK. Starting October 19, 2005, all new accounts will have @googlemail.com addresses. Don't worry, though - all messages are being sent and delivered as before.

"We have tried to resolve this dispute through negotiations, but our efforts have failed," the company states, adding: "We are still working with the courts and trademark office to protect our ability to use the Gmail name, but in the meantime, we want you to have an email address you can rely on."

But the devil's in the detail - while existing Gmail addresses work fine now, this may change, the company warns.

"We would love to say that your address will always remain the same. But the trademark issue is still unsettled, and unfortunately, we cannot predict what the other party or the courts might do here."

The company advises users to use their existing username with an @googlemail.com address to avoid problems later on.

"Trust that we will do the best we can to make sure your email address won't ever have to change," the company says.

It remains possible that UK firm, IIIR, may still cause a situation in which tens of thousands of UK email users will have to spend precious time informing friends and contacts of the new address.

IIIR apparently demanded "exorbitant sum" for Gmail name. Companies like Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America are among the British firm's clients.

It claims it has used the name Gmail since 2002 for the mail functions of a software tool it offers called ProNet.

Google isn't convinced, the BBC reports: "After Google announced its Gmail plans in spring 2004, IIIR rushed to register the Gmail trademark with Ohim, the European Union's trademark office, and the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Google's senior European counsel Nigel Jones believes that IIIR: "Has failed to provide evidence of its common law rights to the name."

Jones also said that IIIR had demanded an "exorbitant sum" in exchange for dropping its claim to the mark.

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