Google Loses Gmail Trademark Case in Germany
Google regrets the decision by the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court but said the ruling will not affect its ability to offer the Web-based mail service in Germany, Google Senior Legal Counsel Arnd Haller said in a statement.
"We have also applied for the registration of 'Gmail' as a EU-trademark on the territory of the European Union and are allowed to use it with one exception in Germany and one in the U.K.," a Google spokeswoman in the U.K. said via e-mail.
In Germany, Google launched its Webmail service in 2005, initially under the "Gmail" brand, said Kay Oberbeck, Google's head of communications and public affairs for Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
As part of that case's resolution several weeks ago, Giersch signed a cease-and-desist declaration stating he would not offer any services under the "Gmail" name in Europe, excluding Germany and the non-EU countries of Monaco, Norway and Switzerland, the U.S. spokesman said via e-mail.
However, Giersch takes issue with this account, saying he didn't sign any cease-and-desist declarations as a result of the Austrian case. Giersch said he told the Austrian court what he has told the Switzerland court: that he's only interested in using the "G-mail" name in Germany, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland. "That's where I registered my marks, that's where I do business and that's all I want," he wrote.
Google disputes Giersch's assertion that he owns a trademark for "G-mail" at all in Germany. "He owns a colored, succinctly designed word/device mark for the black/yellow logo 'G-mail,'" the Google U.S. spokesman wrote.
That logo can be seen on the home page of Giersch's G-mail company Web site. G-mail, operated by Giersch's P1privat near Hamburg, Germany, provides what Giersch describes as a "hybrid" mail service that combines e-mail and regular mail.
Giersch, who is based in Monaco, isn't interested in selling Google ownership of the name in dispute, but rather is interested in growing his G-mail business, whose commercial operations he launched in 2000, he said. The G-mail operation has about 10 full-time employees and 45 part-timers and subcontractors.
Google doesn't use the Gmail name in the U.K. because it is currently trademarked by someone else. Google representatives didn't know who the owner of the Gmail name is in the U.K. nor whether Google is currently making any attempts to secure the name there. They confirmed the owner isn't Giersch.