Google Can’t Use Gmail Name in Germany

Q Boyer
HAMBURG, Germany — A German court this week ruled that Google cannot continue to use the name “Gmail” in connection with its email service in Germany, finding that the mark was first registered by German businessman Daniel Giersch.

In using the Gmail mark in the German market to this point, Google “infringed the young businessman's trademark that had been previously been registered,” the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court stated in its judgment.

Sebastian Eble, Giersch’s attorney, hailed the court’s decision as a triumph for the many “Davids fighting Googliaths.”

The trademark battle over the Gmail mark has been winding through the German court system for close to three years, and has cost Giersch dearly, according to a press release the German entrepreneur released this week.

“Each individual court process has required five-figure amounts,” Giersch said, noting that in addition to the lawsuit in Germany, legal proceedings have been initiated by Google against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

According to Eble, Google has announced its intention to “fight my client abroad for as long as it takes [until] he drops the legal claims lodged in Germany.”

Google’s senior legal counsel for the case in Germany, Arnd Haller, said that while the company was disappointed by the German court’s decision, it would not affect Google’s ability to provide email services to its German clients.

“Google owns the Gmail trademark in over 60 countries worldwide and we have used it ever since we launched the service in 2004,” Haller said. “Our German users will continue to use Google Mail and enjoy the same experience as users of Gmail worldwide.”

According to Giersch, one of Google’s primary assertions in the lawsuit was that Giersch’s claim to the Gmail name was “an abuse of the law aimed only at delivering an overpriced sale” of the Gmail mark. Giersch flatly denied the notion that he was motivated by profiting from a potential sale of the mark.

“I have made it clear since the beginning that I will never sell the name,” Giersch said. “It is my sole intention to realize my idea for a hybrid mail system. I am absolutely convinced of its success. Neither ‘G-mail’ nor myself are for sale.”