Time to rethink using trademarked terms on Google?

Marks and Spencers recently had their wrists slapped by the European courts after a ruling by the Advocate General found in favour of Interflora who is suing M&S over use of its trademark terms on Google Adwords advertising platform.

There have been a number of cases in the past between brands but these tended to focus Google’s role in allowing trademark infringement. Recently Louis Vuitton took Google to court because they felt Google was themselves infringing on trademarks by allowing this activity. The landmark case ruled in favour of Google stating their role in this was “neutral”.

Google has been left out of this court case which has helped reaffirm it’s own terms of advertising which clearly state that trademark issues should be resolved between advertisers. This has sparked mass debate over whether Google should be doing more to stop this activity. Furthermore it highlights that advertisers should be steering clear of bidding on their competitors keyword. Not only that but actively ensuring that it does not happen.

We already know that Google will allow advertisers to bid on competitor’s trademark terms but NOT allow to use them on their ad copy. Also that courts are ruling in favour of the plaintiff in cases where there has been some form of infringement.

This is a decision for the business owner and not for one of the agency. I have been asked many times in my career what the best course of action is. Naturally I’ve not wanted to touch the subject but pushed for an answer I’ve always advised against the practice of bidding on competitors keywords. It’s clear from this that business owners and advertisers should go one step further by implementing a set of negative keywords around their key competitors to prevent this occurring and to show due diligence.

Overall, the practice is unethical and you’ll find on the most part your results from such campaigns to perform poorly on click through rates and conversions.

Read the press release.

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