Google Reverses Course, Allows Trademarked Adwords to be Bought by (Most) Everyone


Google AdWords LogoGoogle has announced a change in its AdWords policy that is sure to do two things. It’s sure to make a lot of people a more money, and it’s sure to stir up a quite a bit of controversy. Last Thursday, Google announced on its AdWord blog that it was reversing its previous stance and would begin allowing certain companies to purchase AdWords containing trademarks that they did not own.

…in an effort to improve ad quality and user experience, we are adjusting our trademark policy in the U.S. to allow some ads to use trademarks in the ad text. This change will bring Google’s policy on trademark use in ad text more in line with the industry standard. Under certain criteria, you can use trademark terms in your ad text in the U.S. even if you don’t own that trademark or have explicit approval from the trademark owner to use it. This change will help you to create more narrowly targeted ad text that highlights your specific inventory.

For example, under our old policy, a site that sells several brands of athletic shoes may not have been able to highlight the actual brands that they sell in their ad text. However, under our new policy, that advertiser can create specific ads for each of the brands that they sell. We believe that this change will help both our users and advertisers by reducing the number of overly generic ads that appear across our networks in the U.S.

I’m not exactly sure what Google’s stance was before because it is already being sued for selling trademarked brands without permission, not to mention the suits they’ve settled out of court.

On Monday, FPX filed a class-action suit against Google in federal court in Texas, saying that Google had infringed on its trademark and challenging Google’s policies on behalf of all trademark owners in the state. Legal experts said it was the first class-action suit against Google over the issue.

But Google’s acceptance of such competitive uses of trademarks has irked many other companies, including the likes of American Airlines and Geico, which have filed suits against Google and settled them. Many brand owners say the practice abuses their brands, confuses customers and increases their cost of doing business.

Only time will tell whether or not this move by Google will make things better or worse.

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