May 182009

Google Trademark Policy Change

Google announced a major change in trademark policy today.

Essentially, Google will no longer police trademark usage. Those of you who have submitted your marks to Google expecting them to prevent anyone unauthorized from using them in the text of ads, understand that as of June 15th those protections will be gone.

As long as the advertiser has the trademark on their website, selling the product or service, or providing "unbiased" information about the product or service, they are free to use the trademark in their ad text, regardless of whether the owner of that mark has given permission for its use.

This is a BIG deal. Google pitches it as a benefit to advertisers, but the fact that Google's policy allows an advertiser to use a mark doesn't mean the law allows it. It does mean that policing trademarks will fall back onto the shoulders of the mark owners and unless they have an army dedicated to the project they may have to throw up their hands.

Those who relied on Google to protect their marks against their own affiliates should pay particular attention to affiliate "performance" improvements in June.

This is a smart move on Google's part. Fighting these battles cost them money, resources and angst, and provided no benefits to Google in return. I suspect the lawyers will be the ultimate beneficiaries.


5 Responses to "Google Trademark Policy Change"
Jim Novo says:
I'm guessing this means the most popular copy for PPC ads will become: "Better than (Trademark Name)"
Wow!. This is a big deal, you're right George.
I spoke with Google folks at the very top of their org chart last week about this and some other ideas for improvements to AdWords we advocate. According to the policy statement, Jim's suggested ad copy would only be allowed if the retailer also sold the trademarked product. However, I think this change is quite a bit bigger than most folks realize. Google doesn't even plan to maintain their trademark database. Absent that database, they wouldn't be able to algorithmically verify that the landing pages mention the trademark as well. This means they're only going to support this as one-off human screening, which, given the scale of the abuse, will mean they won't be able to prevent anything and will react incredibly slowly to complaints.


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