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Targeting competitors company name as an AdWord

What's the ethics/legalities involved?

7:28 am on Mar 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My company has been in business for 27 years and has a very distinctive company name. It has been Trademark in my state since 1993 and has had the TM logo next to it in all forms since then.

If you type my company name into Google, you will see two of my biggest competitors advertising for "Mycompany Name" (it's a two word company name).

One of them is a Premium Sponsorship and the other is an AdWord. The Premium is the most blatant because his ad text is "Mycompany Name - Bunch of hype text here". Which means you see MY company name in bold on his advertisment but if you click the ad, you are taken to his site!

I have to think this has come up before, both here and legally because if you type in "Walmart" or "Radio Shack", there are no ads.

Can anyone give me a heads up?

8:08 am on Mar 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It's a tricky business. I am not a lawyer, so I can't give you legal advise but as I understand it from both medias and lawyers I have talked to there can be times when it is OK and times when it is definately not.

One of the classic examples that is usually considered OK is for comparison charts. If you competitor have a page that compare different brand names - including yours, there is a good change he can get away with it.

Are you doing AdWords? It can never hurt (i believe) to ask you sales rep if the specific situation is acceptable. Maybe Google editors is not aware that the keyword used is a brand name. Sometimes they need to be told before they do anything. Large brand names they know, but small brand names often slip

8:43 am on Mar 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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We already have a "team of experts" (lawyers) drafting a letter to legal@google.com. I was trying to get an idea of whether that was going to be successful or not, or if anyone here had any other ideas.

There is definately no "comparisons" going on here, just run-of-the-mill sleeze.

9:08 am on Mar 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If it is your trademark you do not need a lawyer. Email google, they will ask for proof and then disable it. I had this happen to our trade name about 6 weeks ago. I sent an email to google and cc to my competitor. It was down 2 hours later, my competitor pulled it. Google did respond the next day asking for the standard proof information, but it was moot.
5:24 pm on Mar 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'm not a lawyer, but here's my take on it.

Placing an ad on AdWords to show up under a search for your competitor's name is probably perfectly legal and ethical. But masquerading as your competitor is probably a) unethical, b)a violation of Google's AdWords agreement, and c) illegal (especially if your competitor's name is trademarked).

For instance, if I was running Pepsi's web site, running a pepsi ad under the "coca-cola" keywords is probably fine. But putting up an ad that claimed to be for a Coke site and then linked to a Pepsi site is probably illegal, and is certainly a violation of Google's user agreement. Then there's the gray area - putting up an ad that said "Pepsi is better than Coke, click here!". As Mikkel_Svendsen said, there are situations here that may be OK and others that may not.

(Disclaimer: I have absolutely no relation to either Pepsi or Coke, and I don't actually even drink soda anymore. The brands were just chosen because they make a good example).

The case you mentioned sounds to me like your competitor masquerading as you - which is definitely a violation of Google's terms, and - especially if you have a trademark - probably illegal. But if he's just advertising using your company's name as a keyword, I call it savvy marketing.

5:32 pm on Mar 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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We've had this problem (at one point there were 4 advertisers for our one word company name) and it got a bit silly. We simply let it lie.

Their messages were badly written, they weren't undercutting us and the first thing you would do if you clicked on any of them is use your back button because they were so badly designed. They are simply small leeches who can't compete, trying to suck blood from a larger animal.

When people search for your company name your company should come up first in the serps and that is what people were searching for - trust them to click on it. I just did the stats for google searches in the last month on our name (and variations) and we were up month on month - I really wouldn't worry too much.

5:40 pm on Mar 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I was trying to get an idea of whether that was going to be successful or not.

Most probably Successful. Don't waste your money on lawyers. Totally uneccessary.

Fax your letter on letterhead to: Attention: Google Adwords Trademark Complaints.

Then mail it to them. They will review it, judge it, and if ads are found to violate your trademark, they will be yanked.


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