Many organizations have discovered the unauthorized use of their trademarks in paid search advertisements. Google AdWords is at the center of discussion for many trademark owners. The AdWords platform allows advertisers to place text ads above and alongside natural search results when a user’s query matches their campaign keywords. On occasion, advertisers will use trademarked terms in ad copy even if they are not the trademark owner. This has become a concern, as it can cause confusion in the marketplace, negatively impact business and dilute brand strength for trademark owners.
Google’s current policy stipulates that advertisers are allowed to bid on any keyword, regardless of its trademark status. However, Google reserves the right to enforce restrictions on the use of a trademark term in ads. In these murky waters, what is a trademark owner to do if misuse occurs? Here are a few options:
- Reach out directly to offending advertisers and establish agreements not to advertise on each other’s marks or use each other’s marks in ad copy.
- File an official complaint with Google regarding the use of your marks in other advertisers’ ads.
- Send cease and desist letters from your legal team to the offending advertisers.
Of these options, we find that the first can be the most powerful. Even if a complaint is filed with Google, they may not investigate or place restrictions around the term’s use in ad copy.
How has Google’s trademark policy affected you? How have you dealt with trademark misuse? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.