Google can't use the Gmail name in Germany because doing so would infringe on someone else's trademark, a German court has ruled.
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.
As in the UK, where it also doesn't own the Gmail trademark, Google provides the service under the name ‘Google Mail’ in Germany.
"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 UK," a Google spokeswoman in the UK said.
Google launched its Gmail webmail service in 2004 and owns the ‘Gmail’ trademark in more than 60 countries, according to the company.
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.
However, Google changed the service's name to ‘Google Mail’ after Daniel Giersch objected to the use of the name in Germany and successfully sued the company.
The appeals court that sided with Giersch will probably take several months to publish its reasons for reaching its decision, Oberbeck said.
Once Google has had a chance to read the court's grounds for the decision, it will decide whether it will drop the matter or try to take it to Germany's Supreme Court, Oberbeck said.
Giersch, a 33-year old entrepreneur, registered the ‘G-mail’ trademark in Germany in 2000 and has been battling Google in German courts for the past three years, according to Giersch.
There are ongoing legal proceedings between Giersch and Google over the ‘Gmail’ name in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland, according to Giersch.
Oberbeck said Google recently took Giersch to court in Austria to prevent him from setting up a business under the Gmail name there.