Do you know what’s happening to your trademark on Google?

In this guest post, MEC’s Alex Hancocks suggests that Google is not doing enough to protect brands from having their trademarks being hijacked in paid search.

Is Google organising the world’s information and making it more universally accessible and useful, or not?

Google recently announced an important update to their trademark policy for advertisers targeting Australian users via the Adwords platform. ‘From 23 April 2013, Google will no longer monitor or restrict keywords in response to trademark complaints for ads served to users in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Brazil’.

Google states that “We don’t allow ads to be displayed on our results pages unless they are relevant where they are shown. And we firmly believe that ads can provide useful information if, and only if, they are relevant to what you wish to find – so it’s possible that certain searches won’t lead to any ads at all”.

Now advertisers are now able to bid on other brands’ trademarked terms, however, they are not supposed to be using these trademarked terms (e.g. your brand name) within their own ad text creative. So what does Google consider to be ad text?

A search this morning on Google.com.au for the trademarked term “Tiger Airways” returned the following result:

Google Screenshot

You would think that this was an official Tiger Airways ad. Well it isn’t. Look closely at the Display URL. This is in fact a Paid Search listing for edreams.com based in Spain.

Clicking the ad, takes you through to a landing page, with a Tiger Airways logo and the Tiger brand name, featured on an Edreams page. Edreams are not affiliated with Tiger Airways, nor do they have authorisation to use Tiger Airway’s trademarked brand term.

If you paste the display URL in to a browser, it doesn’t work. Clearly Edreams is seeing this as an opportunity to capture traffic and Google is using the display URL policy as being applicable in this scenario.

Google frequently experiments with ad formats/designs, so it is strange that they do not consider the display URL to form part of the ad text itself, particularly when they frequently promote the Display URL by moving it up next to the main ad text headline if CTR warrants this.

The impact for clients like Tiger Airways are; a loss of traffic volume of traffic, an increase in the cost of their branded, trademarked term, a loss of potential bookings and a poor user/brand experience. And, this isn’t limited to Tiger, Edreams are also bidding on Jetstar, Virgin, Etihad, Emirates, Air New Zealand and BA.

So, I suggest you Google your brand and see if anyone is using your trademark for their own purposes.

Alex Hancocks is head of search at media agency MEC


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