Google's Gmail hit by trademark claim

The headache grows for Google's proposed Web-based e-mail service as a research company in London says it owns the trademark for Gmail and intends to keep it.

First, it was privacy advocates who vowed to fight Google's proposed e-mail service, Gmail. Now, a small-cap independent investment research company says it owns the trademark to "Gmail" and it intends to battle to keep it.

London-based The Market Age said that at its peak a year ago, it had 1,000 customers representing 300 banks signed up for its core "Pronet" Web-based research application service, of which "Gmail" is a primary research product.

"When the news came out about Google's Gmail last week, I went to the U.S. patent and trademark authorities. I thought maybe we were in trouble. But they hadn't (registered)," Shane Smith, group chief executive of Market Age, told Reuters on Wednesday.

He said that on Saturday he paid the $700 in fees to register "Gmail" under the company's name. The Market Age never registered a "Gmail" Web domain, he added.

Google owns http://www.google.com.

Google officials in London could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since announcing last week it plans to launch a Web-based e-mail service for consumers capable of storing a lifetime's worth of e-mails, Google has come under fire from privacy advocates in Europe and the United States.

Google, the world's most popular search engine, has a squeaky clean reputation.

Smith said Google has not been in contact with his company. He declined to say if the company would consider licensing the name to Google.

Shares in The Market Age more than doubled to a high of 27.5 pence on Tuesday after it mentioned its claim on the "Gmail" trademark. The jump was helped by a "buy note" from an analyst at Corporate Synergy.

Shares fell back again on Wednesday, slumping 16 percent to 20 pence.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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