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Innovation

Gmail returns to the UK

Google email users will shortly be able to ditch googlemail.com addresses for gmail.com after a lengthy trademark dispute is settled
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor on

Google's UK web mail users will now be able to have an @gmail.com email address rather than @googlemail.com, after the company settled a long-running trademark dispute with a British research firm.

On Tuesday, Google said that it has come to an agreement with Independent International Investment Research (IIR Group) and will begin offering people with googlemail addresses a gmail address "over the next few months". New UK users will be able to sign up to a gmail account later this week.

"After engaging in legal proceedings at the trademark office, we were able to reach a settlement with the party with whom we had the conflict," Google said in a statement. "We are happy to have resolved this issue, and look forward to offering @gmail.com addresses to users in the UK. We are unable to disclose the settlement agreement details."

Since October 2005, people signing up for an email address with Google have been given a googlemail address rather than the gmail address provided elsewhere in the world. The company stopped using the gmail suffix as a result of its dispute with IIR, which applied for the gmail trademark in 2002, two years before Google launched the beta version of its email service. The research firm uses the term G-mail to refer to part of its financial analytics software.

In 2005, Google said IIR had asked for $50m (£33m) for use of the G-mail trademark. The research firm later said it would settle for a lower sum than the between £25m and £34m indicated by an independent valuation of the brand's worth, but added it would seek the full amount if legal proceedings continued.

After reaching an impasse in discussions, Google ceded the trademark to IIR and introduced @googlemail for new email users. It said at the time that the impasse would take years to resolve. "Trying to work things out has become distracting and annoying. We feel like we are being taken advantage of," Google said at the time.

Speaking to ZDNet UK on Tuesday, the chief executive of IIR Group, Shane Smith, said the case was settled two years ago. He declined to comment further.

Google said that engineering work was behind the two-year delay in re-introducing the gmail address in the UK after the settlement.

"We know how important email accounts are to users, and we wanted to provide the best user experience possible. We engineered the infrastructure to enable users to switch their accounts to @gmail.com accounts should they choose, as well as direct all new users to set up @gmail.com accounts in the UK. This engineering effort took a bit of time to complete, but we're convinced it was worth the wait," a company spokesperson told ZDNet UK.

Google email users throughout most of the rest of the world have been allowed to take gmail addresses since the introduction of the service. One exception is Germany, whose users will be forced to remain on googlemail.com accounts because a venture capitalist has already registered the gmail name in Germany.

UK users who switch to a gmail address will also be able to receive messages at the googlemail equivalent. Those who signed up to Google web mail account between April 2004 and October 2005 — that is, before the parties walked away from their initial discussions — were able to register and keep a gmail address.

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