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AdWords Changes Copyright Policy in US + Canada
Google allows people to bid on competitors trademarks.

 5:44 pm on Apr 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google has recently ammended their trademark policy to allow people to bid on the trademarks of competitors from the US and Canada. They only check the ad copy of these ads for trademark violation.

Outside these areas they check both the keyword that triggered the ad and the ad copy.




 5:59 pm on Apr 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you were looking for a particular product in any yellow pages can a company specify that no other competitor ad can appear on their page? Can NBC object to a ABC advertisement in Time Square?


 6:21 pm on Apr 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not true apparently. I just got a dissapproval email from Google for using trademarked keywords. I do not have trademarked terms in my ads themselves. They just pulled over 100 of my keywords for the first time citing keyword trademarks. So this isn't the case I guess?


 6:52 pm on Apr 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not true apparently. I just got a dissapproval email from Google for using trademarked keywords. I do not have trademarked terms in my ads themselves. They just pulled over 100 of my keywords for the first time citing keyword trademarks. So this isn't the case I guess?

: (

The link posted by awall19 does in fact point to advance information about AdWords trademark policy, moving forward.

These changes will be implemented in the coming weeks, after we've notified all appropriate parties in advance of the policy being implemented.

So, for the moment, the trademark policy remains the same. However the changes mentioned above will be in place in the near future.

Sorry to say that I don't have a precise timeline at this point.



 10:22 pm on Apr 12, 2004 (gmt 0)


This sounds like something similar to the bulletin board monitoring flap of a few years back.

If G monitors some keywords for compliance, then they must monitor all keywords for compliance, and they are liable for those they miss.

If they do not monitor keywords at all, then they are off the hook and all responsiblity/liability falls to the advertisers.


 6:38 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)


Supposedly e-mails were sent thursday? (didn't get)

"Google's own trademark complaint policy calls on trademark holders to take up their grievances with ad infringers themselves."


 7:19 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

never got mine either.

interesting though ;)



 7:20 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Have a valuable brand, now you're gonna have to pay out the nose for it if other people want a piece of the action.

In the end, is G legally on the line or is it the entity placing the ad?

The sound of PPC affiliates hammering away on their keyboards is deafening. :) The AFF networks should have at least a few good months once this goes into place.


 7:57 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Supposedly e-mails were sent thursday? (didn't get)

never got mine either.

The article was not 100% clear or correct in this regard. Actually, emails were sent to trademark owners, rather than to all advertisers (although the trademark owners could certainly be advertisers too, of course.).

Bid on what u like, trademark or not - bid on any keyword, including trademarked terms

As noted in another thread on the same subject, the new trademark policy will be implemented in the coming weeks.

However, it has not been implemented yet.

So just to be very clear - please be aware that, as of this moment, the policy is the same as it ever was.



 8:00 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I see nothing wrong with the ability to bid on trademarked words. In fact, it's a requirement for me :)

CISCO is trademarked. I spend 5 figures a month on AdWords selling used Cisco hardware. If AdWords or Cisco came to me and said that I couldn't advertise using their "trademarked word" then not only would I be out of business, but AdWords would be losing all of the money I pay them plus all of the money that all of the other network hardware dealers pay them.

People whine too much.


 8:15 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

digitalv you are in a very contrary mood this evening .. as a seller of Cisco branded stuff used or new you were always likely to be an authorised user of that trademark ..

They probably want the used market for their stuff to work like BMW Mercedes & Volkswagen also do so they will authorise your use of their trademark property.

However before you are so quick to rejoice think just a little.

After this change in policy from google its now likely to cost you a lot more to get the same adwords rank for your cisco products as anyone and everyone selling products that can do the same job but which are not cisco branded can now bid on the cisco term .. and if you or cisco dont like it .. google aint going to do squat for you anymore.

I would not be so quick to whine at the whiners .. if I were you .. trademarks are there for a purpose.

And allowing people to talk or communicate about any vaccum cleaner using the name Hoover is just what causes the name hoover to have a reduced value to the company that makes that specific product.


 8:36 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

if I go to the new york times and ask for an ad in their newspaper for my new product "loser cola" to appear right next to all the Coke ads in their paper, am I trading on Coke's trademark?

I don't use the word coke in my ad. Like AdWords I have to put the word 'coke' on the advertising 'order form'. I am obviously placing my ad to catch the same eye intrested in coke information.

how is it different?

How can the thoughts of the google search user and the words that that they type on their screens be owned by anyone?

[edited by: nyet at 8:45 pm (utc) on April 13, 2004]


 8:44 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

And allowing people to talk or communicate about any vaccum cleaner using the name Hoover is just what causes the name hoover to have a reduced value to the company that makes that specific product.

If I understand correctly, non-trademark owners and unauthorized users will NOT be able to use the name Hoover in their ads, though they will be able to bid on the keywords.

Affiliates of the "Mega Interest Payday Loan" company could buy terms like "Mega Interest" and so could their competitors but they would not be able to use the trademaked term "Mega Interest" (if that was the trademark) in the copy of the ad.

The Trademark owners would still have the advantage of being able to put the tradmarked terms in the ad and probably get much higher CTRs.

May or may not be the correct interpretation, we'll have to wait and see when the official change is made.


 8:52 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Nyet is saying what I was just about to say :P

My case with Cisco is one thing, but how often do we see commercials on TV where they say "Product A is better than Product B"... Oust is better than Lysol, Bounty is better than Brawny, whatever.

Remember back in the 80's when everyone used to compare their product to "The leading brand"? It's not like that anymore - now products compete head to head in advertising, calling out their competitors by name and saying why they're better than Product X.

So how is this any different? Why shouldn't I be able to use a "company x" keyword and show an ad saying why my product is better than theirs? Afterall - Google advertisements are clearly marked as ADVERTISEMENTS, not as search results.

All this would do is allow large companies to stifle their competition. And also just so you know, Cisco *hates* the used equipment market because it hurts their sales of new equipment and their own used equipment markets. What would stop Cisco from "taking down" all of our ads? I mean technically that's trademark infringement, right? We're using their name without permission. They have no "authorized used dealer" program - used/refurbished sales don't benefit them, in their eyes it HURTS them.


 9:01 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

skibum I think you do read it correctly .. there have been quite a few posts about this in various forums and the Google t&C is updated though the policy is as mentioned apparently not live yet in US and Canada.

However to use the Hoover example rather than the Cisco one.

Lets say that no one authorised to display the Hoover trademark does use adwords and yet many vacuum cleaner sellers bid on the term, searching for a hoover then brings up mutitudes of results for vacuum cleaners .. the descriptive name for the product when what was searched for was the specific name of a branded trademarked product made by one company.

Its going to mean the term Hoover becomes less a specific brand and more a generic term for a vacuum cleaner which it arguably has, and which trademark law was supposed to protect against, cisco perhaps a generic term for a router ..

or as people have told me in the past ... we do google for it .. we type in www.yahoo.com and search :-)

Yes people have told me that :-) makes me grin remembering how I corrected them at that time :-) [1]

Admittedly some companies are always going to have as hard time defending search on their trademarks .. apple was quoted in one site I saw eariler :-)

[1] at the time Y results were so poor that I did say no you need this address to google something :-) not so sure I would bother this time though.


 9:08 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Oh, here's another wrench to throw in here ... what about sites where you can compare or review products?

Would those be considered trademark violations if someone searched for Hoover and an ad showed up and said "Compare Hoover, Oreck, Dirt Devil, and others"

Where is the line drawn?

Trademarks were never invented to stifle competition - they were invented simply so no one could take your name. It's up to YOU to maintain your brand, not search engines.


 9:11 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

if I open the newspaper looking for a cupon for 75 cents off a six pack of coke and right next to it I find a 85 cents off coupon for "Loser Cola" and that dilutes Coke's brand name, isn't that just 'tough nouggies' for Coke?

Sounds like free enterprise to me.

I placed my coupon right next to coke's precisely because I wanted people looking for coke to find me instead.


 9:15 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I never understood Google's old policy. Trademarks are created to provide a label for us to use to communicate with one another. That's the legal and social reason for the hassle of creating a legal structure around them. They help the consumer.

Will there be abuse with Adwords and Adsense. You bet. Is that G's problem. No, not any more than it is to control and direct search in any other manner.


 9:18 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

More precisely trademarks came about to prevent market confusion. So that someone could not pose as someone else. So that the consumer is not confused or swindled into buying something they think that they are not.

Never to protect one company from competition with another, fair or unfair.


 9:29 pm on Apr 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

digitalv thinking aloud for a moment I do think that if you are selling cisco branded stuff new or used its always going to be unlikely that cisco could stop you calling it what it is ...

Cisco router xyz - or whatever ....

however if I am selling competing brand routers trademark law is supposed to give them (and you for that matter) some protection because I am not selling cisco branded stuff

Otherwise the value to their business of their investing in their advertsing comms of their brand name and trademarks is considerably devalued.

another angle ..

So lets say I spend all my available budgets to market the word "blodddquidsplot" worldwide as the name I want identified with my new and better widget ...

Anyone can still search for widget just like before .. and get everyone who makes widgets

But I have invested in getting recognition for the name "blodddquidsplot" .. its only my efforts and investment that have put that stupid name in the tops of peoples minds .. so there is no way am I going to be happy if anyone can list their products on a search for my silly name :-)

Anyhow have a nice evening .. off now ..
& ot I would love it if someone could tell me what steps they take in response to the issues in this post: [webmasterworld.com...]
it seems at the moment that no one else has these issues.


 5:24 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think google is in for some trouble on this issue. No matter how you look at it, google is making money of trademarks that they are not licensed to make money off of.


 6:30 am on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

So that someone could not pose as someone else.

Maybe unique to the net, if your affiliates buy your brand and send traffic straight to your site, are they "posing as someone else"?


 4:46 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

What we need to remeber is that saying "Brand x is as good as Brand Y" is legal because it falls within the fair use clause of TMing. Same applies when writing reviews.

What we are talking about here is that a company invests millions and years in creating brand awarness. They secure their brand name with a TM to protect their investment.

I think the problem is that competitors are using a TM name to take business away by using them as a keyword trigger. If I write an ad and say "just like Brand x!" or "as good as Brand x!" that seems legal to me. However, using a competitors TM name as a keyword trigger doesnt seem like fair use to me.

Its not the same as buying ad space in a paper. There is not much a competitor can do in a newspaper ad that uses a TM name of a competitor to get infront of users. In the case given, the playing field is level becuase money determines who appears where. I dont have to mention "brand X" to GET on that page, I just need alot of money. The paper doesnt allow my ad to appear simply because I dont have a certain keyword in my ad.


 5:01 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

As was pointed out in one of the articles, due to the current handling of trademarks online, Google is reaching a growth ceiling with their current policies. I mean, people trademark everything and the current handling is a bit draconian.

My most frustrating experience was helping someone put together a list of keywords for Yahoo Store tools. "Yahoo" is off-limits, and it's shut out developers that are trying to drum up business for their services or products which support the very company that's blocking them.

I'm thinking Google has decided it's time for a "defining moment in internet history." Currently, trademarks are NOT being treated online the same as offline and Google has the money and the motivation to get the legal precedent set.

Heck, I've always been curious as to why some people seem to think that "fair use" laws shouldn't apply in ppc anyway.


 5:13 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Well it is obviously debatable how to apply the concepts to the internet.

But, trademarks were not invented to protect companies. They are to protect consumers from beeing fooled into buying something that they think is another thing.

The law should not 'protect' anyone's 'investment' that it their problem. The law should protect the public from deceptive practices meant to deceive.

If I pay a salesperson a commission to mention my product to the consumer whenever a consumer is looking for (and asks for another product) it is informing the consumer about options. this is good. and infact it is done all the time.

I think that is a better analogy here.

If I pay a higher comission at circuit city to mention my brand of stereo whenever a consumer is looking for a different brand isn't that ok? Like Google, the consumer mentions ans is specifically looking for another brand, but I have paid to be mentioned as well.


 5:25 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think google is in for some trouble on this issue. No matter how you look at it, google is making money of trademarks that they are not licensed to make money off of.

That's a common misconception. Even lawyers get it wrong often. And some courts have gotten baffled at times. The Interest is clearing these misconceptions up--rapidly.

nyet has it right. We can talk about Coke Cola, Nike and whatever else here on the board and WebmasterWorld need not fear, even if Google or Yahoo serves up results from this page when some searches on Nike or Coke.

As I said, I never understood why Google did this in the first place. Putting in the restrictions only reenforced this misconception. Some no doubt think Google is going to make new trademark or brand name rights law.

(One possible answer AWA could offer: "Our lawyers didn't want to have to be the ones to explain this point of law to everyone on God's green earth, so they suggested we punt when we got into this at first. And we're geeks, not marketers.")

Edited so it made sense

[edited by: 258cib at 5:31 pm (utc) on April 14, 2004]


 5:28 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

258cib you are completely missing the point ..

read up about "passing off" it may enlighten you.


 5:37 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Mark, you're right about passing off as someone else being a problem. And Google will no doubt act on restricting reasonable concerns from trademark owners. But to restrict it as they had been doing was reaching too far. They are going to have their hands full, but that's the publishing biz--which is where they are now.


 5:41 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

The real bottom line is (like many things on the internet) case law simply does not address this circumstance. It will take some big casses (currently working their way up through the courts) to 'decide' the issue.

The issue is not cut-and-dried.

Laws should not be used to stifle competition but to encourage it.

IMO, nothing stops me from putting my Burger King Billboard next to every McDonald's billboard in the country if I want to.

Nothing should stop me from putting my teeny tiny billboard (ie adwords ad) anywhere I want to as well.

The fact the the user has typed a trademark into google to specify what the are looking for should not prevent it.


 5:50 pm on Apr 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Exactly. If Dictionaries started accepting advertisements then can they say that a Wal-Mart ad should not be on the page with the word Target?

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