About two years ago, my colleagues and I at Cape Clear devised something called GoogleMail. It was an extremely simple email interface to the Google API. You just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and receive a reply with the top ten search results. I just checked it, and it still works.
As you can see by the news coverage (scroll down), everyone loved the idea, even though it was practically useless. The only exceptions seemed to be visually-disabled people and those in countries whose governments blocked Web access to Google. We were contacted by Google and asked to change the name, which was fair enough. It now goes by CapeMail.
I imagine a scenario, though, where somebody at Google brings up our little invention at a meeting. “GoogleMail? They can’t call it that. Get legal on the phone.” Legal calls us, and we change the name. However, the phrase GoogleMail sticks in somebody’s head back at Google corporate HQ. Two years later, Gmail is borne. Coincidence? Probably, but it’s fun to speculate.