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German courts demand no more Gmail squabbling

Google's trademark beef canned

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German courts have banned Google from further attempts to wrestle the rights to the "Gmail" trademark away from a businessman who registered the name several years before it launched a webmail service.

In the latest decision - the fourth against Google in Germany over the trademark - a regional court rejected the search giant's claim.

The ruling, released yesterday by Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in Hamburg, put a stop to further challenges in Germany by telling Google it could not take the case to federal court. The judgement (Az 5 U 87/06, July 4, 2007) said: "Google infringed the young businessman's trademark that had previously been registered."

Daniel Giersch, 33, started using the name G-mail in 2000 to label his own physical mail service. Google didn't launch Gmail until 2004.

Giersch's lawyer, Sebastian Eble, said: "As far as the Hanseatic Higher Court is concerned, the legal situation is unambiguous to the extent that it has not allowed an appeal to the Federal Court of Justice."

In a statement, Google told The Reg: "While we regret the German court's decision, it will in no way affect our ability to continue to provide web email to our users in Germany. Our German users will continue to use 'Google Mail' and enjoy the same experience as users of Gmail worldwide."

Google's lupine pursuit of Giersch is unrelated to its standoff with German lawmakers over new laws that would ban anonymous email accounts. A legal challenge is one mooted option for Google, which takes the reasonable position that having to prove exactly who you are before opening an email account is bad for privacy on the web.

The trademark battle has rumbled on for three years. Google, which has rights to "Gmail" in 60 countries, is also trying to snatch the trademark in Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland. The Austrian courts have ruled in Giersh's favour. He said: "I have made it clear since the beginning that I will never sell the name. I am absolutely convinced of its success. Neither 'G-mail' nor myself are for sale."

In the UK, Google settled for the name "Google Mail", after it lost out on "Gmail" to research firm IIIR.

In other Googly news, its core advertising business announced today it would offer small businesses lacking a web presence a free starter page if they sign up for an AdWords account. On Tuesday, distant text ads rival Yahoo! said its nascent Panama platform was now available to new as well existing advertisers. ®

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