10 Jan 2012
Using Trademarked Terms in AdWords
You may think that you have free reign over the text you use in your AdWords campaigns, but that’s not always the case. When coming up with the messaging in your ads you need to be careful when considering words, so to avoid infringing upon trademark policies. Before launching any campaign, make sure to do your research to ensure your company does not become the focal point of a legal battle.
Some advertisers have complained that it is difficult to run appropriate campaigns when Google’s trademark terms change from time to time. Google’s terms state that using trademarked company names within an ad can be considered a violation depending on how they are used. There are also rules about bidding on words that are common to certain brands.
Unfortunately these rules are not always crystal clear, which can make it difficult for advertisers to feel safe when developing their campaign tactics and advertising messages. Trademark laws vary among different global regions, and there are legal forms that all advertisers should be made aware of before launching a campaign.
You have the right, and it is often suggested, to use your own brand or company’s name in your ads. This can be especially helpful if your brand or product is familiar to consumers. Make sure to fill out and submit an authorization form stating that you own your brand’s name and trademark. This authorization protects you when using your name within your AdWords campaigns.
The rules are not so cut and dry once you get into the matter of competitors using your trademarked name within their messaging. Factors such as geographical region and how the text is used can determine whether a competitor is in violation. In 2009, Google opened Trademarked Keyword Bidding, giving competitors the opportunity to bid on competitors’ brand names for use as keywords within campaigns. This definitely caused a lot of buzz among AdWords users, and now in certain regions words have to show up with a trademark symbol within those ads for legal reasons. Some ads may be subject to removal if they are deemed “confusing” by leading consumers to believe that the ad is for a service or product that is indicative of a trademarked competitor.
If you use a competitor’s trademark within a region not covered by Google’s trademark policy, Google has the right to ask you to remove that portion of the text from the ad and agree not to use it again in the future. If you use a trademark and you are within a region covered by the policy (this list includes the United States, Canada and more than 250 other countries) then they cannot technically disable your keyword use. They can only look into the way that the text is used, and they only have jurisdiction on Google not search partner websites.
In European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, Google allows the use of trademarked keywords and only recently has begun completing investigations for improper use due to a series of complaints from advertisers who believe that they were infringed upon. There is another narrow list of countries (including New Zealand, China, and others) that are open to these infringement investigations as well and have resulted in related court cases that have caused violators significant fees and fines.
With this in mind, be sure to fill out appropriate forms and do your research when choosing your text in AdWords ads. You would have to formally permit your direct competitor to be able to use your trademark terms in their ads. You are likely not going to do that, so consider yourself safe in this regard. However, if your country of billing and residence falls under Google’s Trademark Policy they can still bid on your company’s brand/name as a keyword. Know the rules to prevent violations that could potentially results in the loss of your AdWords account, or legal problems. You should visit Google’s Advertising Policies for more information about using the brand names of trademarked competitors.