Google is to change its web-based e-mail service in the UK. In future, anyone signing up for an e-mail account from a computer with a British IP address will be offered the @googlemail.com e-mail address instead of @gmail.com.

The name change means that new users won't have to worry about the outcome of a pending challenge to the Gmail trademark from another company in the UK, according to Google spokeswoman Ema Linaker. Google made a similar change for new customers in Germany in May, following a trademark challenge from a company there, she said.

The German company claiming rights to the Gmail name has already been awarded its trademark there, prompting Google to make the change ahead of a court deadline, Linaker said.

That's not the case for London financial research company Independent International Investment Research, however: Its trademark applications are still pending, and until they are decided, it cannot launch a legal challenge to Google's use of them in the UK, according to IIIR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Shane Smith.

IIIR applied to register the name Gmail as a trademark in the US in April 2004, just days after Google launched the beta version of its Gmail service, and followed up with a claim in the European Union later that year. At the time it applied for the US trademark, IIIR was known as The Market Age, or TMA.

TMA has used the name since 2002 for a service which distributes one of its financial information products, Graphiti, by e-mail, Smith said. Graphiti presents information in the form of graphs with commentary from analysts overlaid as text.

Even if Google's challenge to the trademark claims is unsuccessful, it may be too late for IIIR, according to Smith: "The damage is done. The mark that we invented is now inextricably linked to Google."

While IIIR initially wanted Google to stop using the mark globally so that it could do business unhindered, "at this stage we feel they owe us something because we have incurred substantial costs," he said.

For now, said Linaker, nothing will change for existing users of Google's Gmail service in the U.K. and Germany, and even new users will be able to receive e-mail sent to addresses ending @gmail.com. That's because Google is using a single name space for the gmail.com and googlemail.com domains, so if someone registers the name [email protected], they also reserve the address [email protected], and vice versa, she said. Mail sent to [email protected] and [email protected] reaches the same mailbox, even for users outside the UK and Germany.