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Google Changes its Trademark Policy – What this means for your business

Google has made a couple of significant changes to its AdWords trademark policy. One change affects the U.S. and focuses on how trademark terms can be used in ad copy within the United States. The other has a broader reach and it is an expansion of the list of countries where trademarked terms can now be used.

Google writes the following on their Inside AdWords blog for the U.S change:

‘…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.’

The following is a summary of the AdWords trademark policy as applicable to the US, Canada, UK and Ireland:

– ANY trademarked term can be used as a keyword
– ANY trademarked term can be used in ad copy
– A trademark holder can allow only certain companies to use their trademark in ads
– A request by the trademark holder to Google to disallow the use of a trademarked term will render that trademark term useable ONLY as a keyword and NOT in ad copy.

Google has also taken this U.S. policy and applied it to 190 countries, which means that in 190 regions around the world, Google will NOT investigate the use of trademarks as keywords.

How do the above changes affect Australian businesses? They don’t, for the moment.

If you run your AdWords campaign out of Australia, you can still battle with Google in their somewhat non-user friendly trademark complaint procedure.
But, it may be time to get used to the changes that have swept through so many regions and understand how these changes will affect your business. Sooner or later, you will be battling your affiliates more fiercely for those branded / trademarked clicks.

The Winners & The Losers

Who Wins:
Ecommerce sites selling trademarked names or businesses selling trademarked services are by far the biggest winners. Now these businesses can clearly spell out exactly what they are selling and even match the searcher’s trademarked search.

Franchises will also benefit from this change, as they will now be able to put in the actual franchise trademark into their ads, thus clarifying to consumers who they are and what they do through brand recognition.

Who Loses:
Depending on how these new trademark policies are enforced, the searcher could suffer in their search experience, now potentially being bombarded with not one or two but up to seven or eight ads on the front page of Google which all sound painfully similar.

Suppliers and merchants will further tighten contract policies with affiliates, clearly stating a longer list of terms that cannot be used within the c+D172ontract agreement. Google may have changed its trademark policy, but this has absolutely no reach in a binding contractual agreement, so before leaping to change all the ad copy, affiliates should read the fine print of their agreements.

If you are an Australian merchant, hold those contractual pens poised to make some changes…