Reactions to the new Google trademark rules

  • 0
  • April 7, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

We reported last week about the new trademark rules applying to Google Adwords and there has been quite a lot of publicity surrounding the issue already.

My thoughts are that Google is acting purely from a business point of view here, they are going to make a lot more money by letting people bid on trademarked terms. There is a level of hypocrisy here though in the way they are allowing advertisers to bid on terms without having the trademark in the ad text. How is that good user experience? Ads without the search term will get a very low CTR and the only result is the trademark owner ends up paying more for their clicks.

Reactions so far

Naomi Brown from Firebox believes this is going to cause trouble for big brands:

Aaaaagh! This is going to cause me absolutely massive issues. Don’t care about being able to advertise on competitor’s terms: we don’t do this anyway! Really concerned that as a brand which has a simple straightforward trademark synonymous with much more expensive keywords (gadgets being one that springs to mind), we’re going to end up with a free for all.

Legally, I believe that in order to be ‘passing off’ you have to prove that a customer could actually mistake your brand for another. ie you are deliberately misleading customers. So we would only be allowed to sue if someone bid on Firebox, used Firebox in the advert, and then passed traffic to a competitor.

However, there may be a different law that enables some protection against competitors using a trademarks reputation to gain sales. Unfortunately, it will require a test case to enforce it properly.

Whatever happens, its going to be a fulltime job monitoring it all now. In doing this, Google is essentially passing the responsibility of enforcement onto trademark owners.

Robin Goad at Hitwise has data on the increase in navigational search traffic over the last few years:

In other words, there has been a significant increase in navigational search. And because most of these terms are trademarked, that means that there has also been an increase in searches for trademarked terms. Consequently, this change from Google in the UK will have a significant impact on brand owners and affiliates.

Well known affiliate Jason Dale thinks it could be good news for affiliates:

For PPC affiliates it does open up a whole new market – and that could be good news for Google, after all could do with the extra cash. For closed groups (which perhaps may restrict one affiliate bidding on the brand name), it changes the whole landscape. Whilst one affiliate may be able to promote Merchant X directly with their brand name, this new decision essentially allows others to use the Merchant X trigger, but to potentially promote Merchant A, B and C!

Shane Robinson, posted up an extract from a Google email showing that users are likely to click on ads even when they search for a brand:

This change brings the UK and Ireland into line with the US and Canada which has been running this policy since 2004. A good proportion of users in the US and Canada have been clicking on competitor ads even when searching against trademarked terms, suggesting that they find the greater number of ads relevant and helpful when researching or
making a purchase.

Finally, a thought from Lee McCoy:

So what does this mean for affiliate marketing? Well – I feel it’s pretty simple:

MERCHANTS SHOULD EMPLOY SEARCH AGENCIES TO PROTECT THEIR BRAND

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