Due to a dispute with London-based Independent International Investment Research, who claim to have been using the Gmail name before Google launched their service on April 1st, 2004, the Google email service has now been rebranded as Google Mail for the foreseeable future. Users signing up as of this Wednesday 19th October will be offered a
@googlemail.com address, although Google has said that existing
@gmail.com addresses will continue to work for the time being. This only affects users in the UK, which presumably Google determines by IP address blocks.
A lot of Google fans have been raving about how unfair this is and how IIIR are pulling a fast one by trying to register Gmail as a trademark everywhere, but in this case I have no sympathy for either side. Google’s lawyers should have done a proper search for the trademark before launching the service, and they only have themselves to blame if they failed to notice that someone else had already applied for a trademark on the name. As for IIIR, it does look as if they’re trying to capitalise somewhat on the success of Gmail and one wonders whether or not they would have made the same amount of fuss had a smaller company infringed their intellectual property.
I’m not too bothered myself about this, because I don’t really use my Gmail account and it’s still working for the moment anyway, but I can see how it would really annoy all the people in the UK who have switched to using their Gmail account from other free email providers because of the huge mailbox capacity and the lack of intrusive advertising.
Update: We’ve been picked up by CNET as part of the blog community response to the Gmail name change. Unfortunately they’ve gone through our quote and replaced the words with American spellings.