Google faces second Gmail legal battle

Google is being threatened with another lawsuit over the use of the Gmail name for its advertising-funded free e-mail service. It has already been hit with an injunction restricting its use of Gmail in Germany, but could now face action from UK-based Independent International Investment Research (IIIR).

IIIR, an AIM-listed financial research company, has been using the name Gmail for its e-mail services since May 2002. Google launched its Gmail service in April 2004, at which point IIIR applied to register the trademark in the UK and oppose Google’s attempts to register it as a European Community-wide trademark on the grounds of prior use.

IIIR has been in discussions with Google for some time, but according to an announcement to the Stock Exchange released earlier this week, talks have broken down.

IIIR has had an independent report on the value of the Gmail trademark to Google, which gives a figure of between &£25m and &£34m. IIIR notes, however, that this value is based on figures from December 2004, and predates Google’s announcement of plans to launch its Google Talk voice telephony service that will require all subscribers to have a Gmail account.

IIIR says that while it is prepared to settle for considerably less than this amount, it is looking at its legal options. IIIR is apparently open to selling or licensing its rights to the name to Google or, it says, to the “possible sale of the asset to other third parties”.

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