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Google is preparing for a backlash from large brands this week as details of its new trademark policy are implemented.

The policy is changing so that advertisers are no longer restricted from bidding on trademarked terms. The only restriction will be on including trademarks within the advert text.

Brands are preparing to face stiff competition if they want to remain at the top of the sponsored listings for terms they previously had no competition for, such as their company name.

Clever affiliates will be looking to capitalise on the policy change by bidding on merchants names with terms such as 'discount code' in their adverts.

Yahoo UK was recently sued (unsuccessfully) by a trademark owner looking to prevent other advertisers from bidding on his brand.

The trademark owner lost the case and there is speculation that this might have been the test case Google was looking for to change its policy.

Top lawyer Peter Brownlow commented:

“For a number of years we have been waiting for a UK decision on whether or not the use of keywords for sponsored search results amounted to trade mark infringement. The judgment of Mr Justice Morgan has now clarified the position as regards search engines.”

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Published 4 April, 2008 by Patrick Altoft

55 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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sjsr1979

Thanks Google!

This is going to *severely* impact upon the ROI figures of PPC campaigns. It will also put up click costs as the CTR and quality score will drop on the brand terms. What if the ad has dynamic keyword insertion? Will it show the brand term that way?

We will all just have to get better at writing adtexts I supposed. A lot of companies are gonna be angry at this, especially those who pile £££ into building and maintaining their brand.

over 8 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Wonder if it will be the slow beginning of a shift away from google onto other search platforms... hard to imagine that happening at anything but a snail's pace, given Google's dominance.

Google are milking their cash cow I guess.

It's going to be become even more important to look after visitors once they reach your site: as they become more and expensive to bring in, only red carpet user experience will be good enough!

Deri

over 8 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

With Google laying off 25% staff from their DoubleClick acquisition this week...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7329573.stm

there will be maybe more announcements in the coming months, new ways for Google to increase ad prices or volume. Gulp.

Deri

over 8 years ago

Richard Hartigan

Richard Hartigan, Industry Manager at Google

Advertisers have to face up to the fact that by spending so much money on PPC with one company they handing control over their return on investment to one company, with even the best search agencies powerless to control the significance such as the removal of BPF and the trademark policy amendments that were always threatened.

over 8 years ago

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Kevin Milnes, Head of eCommerce at National Express Limited

Wonder how customers will react to being bombarded with ads from competitors when they are trying to find a brands website? If I search for Ford to I really want to see an add from Vauxhall?

Look I'm biased, but I think this only going to impact on the quality of the customer experience on Google (oh and drive a shed load of extra sales for Google).

Fun, fun, fun.

Kev

over 8 years ago

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Mitch

this will aim the big brand. whilst it's an open free for all bidding policy now you will still need to generate a decent quality score to show for competitior terms. PPC on Google for key terms is now prime time TV within Digital space so to compete it you will need a great site, product and brand as ever.

It's easy to moan about Google but they should see this as an opportunity and still remember what great ROI they have had from PPC over the last 3-4 years. CPC prices are increasing and things like this will make it harder but if you optimise effectively and continue to improve your usability and consumer journey you will see get a great ROI from Google. Rate cards always change in ever industry and this is no exception.

over 8 years ago

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Bruce Townsend

Actually Google's emphasis on quality score does provide some protection. We are already seeing some new competitors bidding on our brand, but their ads are at the bottom of the list below us and several of our partners. To get above us, competitors would have to put in uneconomically high bids - because their landing pages by definition are not relevant to the search, and Google takes that into account in ranking their ads.

over 8 years ago

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Martin mcNulty

Over 90% of the UK’s top 100 search queries contain trademarks. The vast majority are currently blocked on Google – on May 5th that’ll all change. If competitors can place ads on these queries the potential brand leakage could be huge.

Only 40% of the US’s top 100 trademark queries contain competitor listings in the results. This suggests that competitors find it difficult to show on these terms, most likely the result of a low Quality Score creating restrictive activation prices. Trademark owners still have the upper hand because of adtext relevance and historical performance.

Advertisers that previously blocked their trademarks on Google are now faced with tough decisions over how to respond.

Advertisers may want to allow ‘closed groups’ of affiliates to cover their trademarks with brand-friendly websites. Google want to see diversity in their results though so these sites must contain unique content and add genuine value to the user in order to pass their quality controls.

over 8 years ago

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Marcos

This is a terrible move for brand owners and the internet as whole. This is the beginning of trashing the need for a Trade Mark online altogether. This will make PPC advertising a dirty medium with unsavory tactics such as adding ‘discount terms’ to the advertisement. PPC searches will loose search relevance. Companies that don’t use PPC will loose their organic traffic. The list goes on…

I think this marks the beginning of the Google downfall.

Marcos Richards
Director
www.webtraffiq.com

over 8 years ago

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Richard

This seems like a deliberate attempt to shoot themselves in the foot by Google - LOL.

From my experience in the FS industry, it was the low cost branded terms that often balanced the far greater spend required on more generic terms, and which was used to justify the higher CPCs paid.

What is likely to happen is that affiliates will move into this space, benefitting commercially short-term. Longer term, these brand owners will have to restrict the way their own affiliates use these terms, or suffer far greater cost of acquisition through CPC. As a result they will "lose" traffic to the less scrupulous affiliates. Lawyers will get involved, and the monitoring of the ads themselves will be of great importance in bringing lawsuits against them.

The long and short of it? TV, Radio, DM and Press will start looking attractive again. This is an ill thought-out move by Google, IMO.

When Affiliates are the only people advertising and the relevance of the ads has plummeted to an all time low, then maybe users will go and find a new way to find what they are after. They certainly won't continue with Google, once the Ad-dominated environment they are creating has emerged. Perhaps they will all realise that typing brand name in the address bar, and hitting Ctrl+Return will deliver the dot com website address - and that delivers 1 result in the blink of an eye, and it is normally more relevant than the gazillion results in fractions of a second that google delivers

over 8 years ago

Ian Chambers

Ian Chambers, Head of Digital & Marketing at Monarch Airlines

Richard could well be right; by trashing the brand search PPC relevence users could well migrate to the cleaner natural listings or rely more heavily on entering the domain directly / using their favourites more. These moves to lower/no cost channels could help to offset the inevitable increased CPC. I wonder if Google will start to push their CPA model more heavily on the back of this too?

over 8 years ago

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Mitch

mmm a few extreme responses.

i think people who manage PPC effectively will take advantage of this - those you don't, won't. I find it quite frustrating how many people moan about CPC prices interesting on generics. Of course they are! You will see more competitiors and market activity with market growth occuring it's natural to see CPC prices increasing. The glory days of minimal competition on PPC have gone.

The key thing is if you have a good product, site, decent brand, etc you should see your conversion rate increase to significantly justify such increase in costs. By utilising SEM best practice and expanding your keyword lists you could see your CPC reduce whilst the rest of the market overall is increasing. Lots of other factors for this but ultimately it's not Google's fault CPC prices are increasing.

over 8 years ago

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Craig

This will hopefully prevent a number of brand owners exploiting this loophole to prevent retailers from advertising goods they are legally entitled to advertise for sale under UK/EU laws on trademarks.

I won't name names but a number of brands (especially in the "luxury goods" sector) that operate B2C channels have used the previous regime to make their site appear in glorious isolation at the top of google.

This has the effect of ripping off customers who are duped into paying RRP on the "official" site as opposed to the actual market rate available on independent retail channels.

Obviously customers can chose to ignore the Adwords result and look at the natural search results, but not everyone does.

Of course, Google is not doing this to be some sort of people's champion - the current set-up clearly costs Google in revenue terms. I know of one single keyword that recently became "off limits" that was previously (according to my beermat maths) generating something like £2-3m pa in the UK alone. Okay, so the Big G still gets the click cost the brand is paying, but that will be significantly lower because there is no competition and because with only one ad, a percentage of people will gravitate towards the natural results.

over 8 years ago

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David

As a small travel company we are currently restricted from advertising many names of hotels / properties that have a trademark restriction by Google, for example Sunset. There are lots of properties that have the name Sunset in their title and we have been unable to market them through ppc with Google.

The problem with the trademark restrictions that Google had was obvious in as much as it was blocking the names of 1,000's of products that had the same trademarked 'word' - such as sunset - in the title / name.

So if I follow this right we will soon be able to do so! Great news!!

over 8 years ago

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Charlie Bass

Who will be the first to challenge this under "passing off"?

over 8 years ago

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Craig

Your argument that someone might challenge this under passing off is the same as the one used for video recorders and copyright. For sure someone might facilitate their passing off of someone elses trademark by bidding on trademarked keywords, but that would only be proven on the facts of the case not via the existence of a technology that makes it possible. There are plenty of legitimate uses of someone elses trademark that have hee-haw to do with passing off: "buy our Brand X, 10 times stronger than Brand Y" or "We sell Brand Z at 50% off RRP".

over 8 years ago

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Liam

Although I can understand that a brand has to protect its identity and the Ford/Vauxhall note is a good case.

HOWEVER - if you are an independant company who (for example) supplies OEM Ford parts to a consumer via Adwords - then you suffer from trademark blocks - this actually opens up the whole market just for Ford (as an example) who can then dominate the sector (such as OEM parts) at a very low CPC cost if they wanted to.

This is not good for competition and in the end - the only loser would be the consumers and the independants.

Im happy that Google are taking steps to unlock some of the trademark blocks - it keeps competition alive and stops ALL the money going to the big brand firms.

over 8 years ago

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tom Wakeford

I reckon Google could be laying themseleves wide open here, its not just about (with respect) the legitimate resellers of products that are an issue here. Its more about the smaller companies who have trademark rights and who will see their competitors infringing that trademark for a competing good or service.


Fortunately in the UK there are criminal sanctions behind trademark infringement. I would love to see who would have the money and guts to take criminal action against google as an accessory to the crime.

This would be a very real possibility for some companies (perhaps some kind of class action with multiple criminal complaints).

Its being done to me right now so I am taking advice as I type this.

Cheers

about 7 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

OK, I'll fall for it - tell us more about what is 'being done' to you 'right now'.

about 7 years ago

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Jonathan - UK Telemarketing Services

We are getting this at the moment as well.  Two direct competitors were bidding on our company name.  We have called them - one agreed to remove the keyword, the other flat out refused, saying that although he thought it was unethical other people were doing it to him.

I hope the EU case prevents this, as it is not only the big brands that are affected, but also smaller companies, and those is more niche businesses like our Telemarketing/Telesales company, where there are a small number of players, and the brand names are the business.

Where a company is reselling a branded good I can see the argument for allowing them limited use of the trademark, but this should really be decided under a licence agreement between the brand owner and the seller, or arbitrarily decreed by Google.

For one, I am going to start looking at alternative advertising - although Google PPC is currently our biggest lead generator, I am sure there are other options.

about 7 years ago

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Jonathan - UK Telemarketing Services

Sorry!

Should have read 'and the seller, NOT arbitrarily decreed by Google.'

about 7 years ago

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