September 13, 2005 4:02 PM PDT
New lawsuit looming over Google's use of 'Gmail'?
After 15 months of negotiations with Google, Independent International Investment Research has been unable to reach a settlement with Google on use of the trademark and may sue the search giant, Shane Smith, chief executive of Independent II Research, said Tuesday.
Independent II Research, a provider of investment research, has been using the "G-Mail" name for its Pronet subsidiary's Web-based e-mail product since May 2002, Smith said. That was two years before Google launched its Gmail Web-based e-mail service in April 2004. The "G" in Independent II Research's product name stands for "Graphiti," an integrated text and graphics feature, he said.
"We have applied for registration as a trademark, and we believe we have priority over Google in that application process," Smith said. "We think Google is a good company with good products, but we have a pre-existing right to this name--and we have to. On the grounds of it (being) in the interest of our shareholders, we have to defend that right."
Independent II Research may file a lawsuit against Google in collaboration with a German company that has a similar complaint against the use of the Gmail name, he said.
A court temporarily ordered Google to change the name of its Gmail product in Germany, after Google was sued by Giersch Ventures. Now the product is called "Google Mail" in Germany, pending the outcome of that trial.
Google has made settlement offers to Independent II Research, but none that were deemed reasonable, Smith said.
Google did not return an e-mail seeking comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)
The problem is just one of several legal headaches for Google. Last week, the company settled a lawsuit with auto insurer Geico for an undisclosed amount. Geico had complained that Google was responsible for trademark infringement for displaying advertising paid for by Geico rivals when Internet users searched for the word "Geico" on Google's search engine. The judge ruled late last year and issued a written ruling last month that said Geico had established a likelihood that the practice could cause confusion for Web surfers.
On Tuesday, a Washington state judge ruled that a former Microsoft executive could do limited work for Google in China in a lawsuit filed by Microsoft against the search giant. Kai-Fu Lee can begin recruiting staff for a Google development center in China, rather than waiting until after a January trial, but he can't do other management functions or work on computer search or speech-recognition technologies, the ruling said.