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earch marketing remains one of the key mechanisms This change will bring Google’s policy on trademark use in ad
for increasing online brand awareness and sales: text more in line with the industry standard and will help advertis-
according to a Forbes study carried out last year, 48pc ers to create more narrowly targeted ad text that highlights their
of US senior marketers believe search engine optimisa- specific products and services.
tion (SEO) is the best way of generating conversions Google has outlined the circumstances in which it will not stop
online, while 32pc said that pay-per-click and search ads are the advertisers from using other people’s brands in their ads: it will be
most effective methods; the UK Search Engine Marketing permitted when the term is used in a descriptive or generic way
Benchmark Report 2009, meanwhile, found that 55pc of UK mar- and not in reference to the trademark owner; when the term is
keters expected to increase their SEO budget, while 45pc said used by a reseller of the trademarked product or a supplier of
they’d be upping their spend on paid search. components corresponding to a trademark; and where the
Given this growing reliance on search, any shift in relation to the advertiser is an information resource that does not compete with
use of trademarks in search engine advertising and in keywords, the trademark owner.
like Google’s recent change in policy, could have far-reaching and The new policy does not appear to endorse comparative
potentially costly implications for brands, and reiterate the impor- advertising where brands use competitor brands in their ad text
tance of registering trademarks. in order to denigrate them.
In essence, Google has reduced the restrictions that apply to Where disputes occur, Google encourages trademark owners
the use of trademarks in the text of ads that appear on the search to resolve their disputes directly with the advertisers, particularly
engine and for keyword triggers. because the advertisers may have similar ads on other search
Let’s look at the use of trademarks in ad text first. For Irish sites. As a courtesy to brand owners, however, Google is willing
marketers advertising in Ireland, the US and other selected to perform a limited investigation of reasonable complaints about
countries, Google has said that in many circumstances they can use of trademarks in ads.
now incorporate brand names in the text of their ads on the
search engine, even when they don’t own or have explicit
Keywords change
approval from the trademark owner for using the text. Google
The other major change that will be of keen interest to Irish mar-
has said that it will investigate if it finds that the advertiser is
keters and trademark owners is the removal of restrictions on the
using the trademark in the ad text in a manner that is competi-
use of other people’s trademarks as keyword triggers. This brings
tive, critical, or negative. In such circumstances it will require the
Google in line with Yahoo! and with Microsoft Bing. Google
advertiser to remove the trademark and prevent them from
changed its policy in Ireland and the UK after a High Court deci-
using it in similar ad text in the future.
sion (Wilson v Yahoo! – Mr Spicy) in the UK ruled in favour of use
Google AdWords employee Dan Friedman gives the following
by search engines and their advertisers of trademarks as key-
example of how this is likely to work: “Under our old policy, a
words to trigger the display of sponsored search results.
site that sells several brands of athletic shoes may not have
In the US, Google has always allowed trademarks as keyword
been able to highlight the actual brands that they sell in their ad
triggers, but in other countries, where the laws and the courts
text. However, under our new policy, that advertiser can create
more heavily favour trademark holders, the rules have been
specific ads for each of the brands that they sell. We believe
much stricter. Now, keywords that were restricted as a result of
that this change will help both our users and advertisers by
a trademark complaint and investigation will no longer be
reducing the number of overly generic ads that appear across
restricted in about 190 countries. Google will no longer investi-
our networks in the US.”
gate complaints relating to the use of trademarks as keywords
50 Marketing Age Volume 4 Issue 1 2010
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