Google: The British Are Coming For GMail!

    February 27, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

The company that recently won the rights to the GMail trademark in the UK has taken its case Stateside. And if Independent International Investment Research (IIIR) is successful claiming its stake to GMail in the US as well, your address could change to instead.

Google: The British Are Coming For GMail!
Google: The British Are Coming For GMail!

Late last month, IIIR filed a petition with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel Google’s ownership of the GMail trademark, alleging the company had improperly acquired their application for it in 2004.

When Google noticed their application for GMail was submitted four days after IIIR’s, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company bought an earlier application, dating back to the late Nineties, from Precision Research, Inc. Based on that earlier application, the USPTO granted GMail to Google.

But Shane Smith, Chairman and CEO of IIIR, claims that application was "worthless," as Precision Research’s GMail product had been abandoned at the time the application was filed. Smith says that one of the requirements to obtain the rights to a trademark is to prove that the mark is currently in use. IIIR is prepared to argue that it wasn’t.

"We have some quite serious doubts as to whether the trademark was in use at the time," Smith told WebProNews. "We suspect it wasn’t. We think it was quietly dropped before the application was made."

If so, says Smith, Google bought something knowingly or unknowingly that was not legitimate. In the complaint itself, IIIR alleges Precision Research knew it was not legitimate when they sold the application. Smith says the ball is now in Google’s court to prove they acquired the application properly.

"Google have made a monstrous mess of their intellectual property requirements around their GMail product," said Smith, citing trademark troubles in several countries, including the one involving his own company in the UK. "They must have given absolutely no thought at all to their product."

IIIR launched their GMail product in the US in 2002. The "G" stood for "Graphiti," a combination of "graphics with integrated text intelligence." A subscription service offered through the their website, it was intended to allow stock brokers to incorporate IIIR’s equity and currency data for investment banks.

"Our product was stopped in its tracks in 2004," said Smith, referring to when Google launched GMail. "We’ve had to completely drop a product line."

Smith confirmed that if the USPTO granted IIIR the GMail trademark, the company would seek monetary damages from Google based upon the value of the mark. According to a press release on the company’s website, the GMail mark is valued between $48 and $64 million. IIIR will not, however ask for transfer of the domain, only that Google change the name of its email service.

Smith says Google has refused to negotiate with IIR since 2004, and cites the recent dispute between Apple and Cisco over the term "iPhone" as an example of how "responsible companies" handle situations like these. That dispute was settled in a matter of weeks. Instead, he says, Google has been "flexing financial muscle" by tying up the case in court.

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