Beijing ISM Internet Technology Development Co. Ltd., the Chinese company behind the Gmail.cn e-mail service, declined to comment on a report that Google Inc. has renewed its attempts to acquire the Gmail.cn domain name.
An executive who answered the phone at ISM’s Beijing headquarters Wednesday said the company was aware of the report, but was unclear about its origins and whether Google had made an offer to buy the Gmail.cn domain name. “When we understand the situation more clearly, we will make an announcement,” said the executive, who did not give his name.
“We do not comment on rumors and speculation,” said Marsha Wang, a Google spokeswoman in Beijing in an e-mail response for comment on a Reuters report, which said ISM had rebuffed a recent Google offer to buy the gmail.cn domain.
Google has long coveted the rights to the Gmail.cn domain, first approaching ISM about the domain name and its use of the Gmail name in August 2004. Those talks broke off, and the two companies fell out of contact, an ISM spokeswoman said in 2005. At that time, Google said it was still “investigating” the matter.
Google has recently stepped up efforts to acquire sole rights to the Gmail name in Web domains since opening up the free e-mail service to any user who wants an account. The company reportedly turned to lawsuits in several European countries to enforce its rights to Gmail domain names, arguing that the owners are infringing on its trademark. Those lawsuits have not generally proved successful.
Since ISM’s Gmail predates Google’s Gmail, the search company is left with the option of making an offer to buy the domain name from ISM.
ISM registered the Gmail.cn domain name — which it says stands for Global Mail — on Aug. 1, 2003, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which oversees the .cn top-level domain. That registration predates Google’s April 1, 2004, announcement of its Gmail service by eight months.
(Steven Schwankert, in Beijing, contributed to this report.)