We have recently received a few questions from clients on trademarked terms and the boundaries of trademarked terms with relation to Yahoo and Google Pay-Per-Click accounts. I did a little research into the matter and found that both search engines handle the problem in a fairly similar way.
Google AdWords Trademark Policy states that they will not allow a trademarked term to be used in the text of a PPC ad. This means that when a competitor writes a PPC ad, they may not use a known trademarked term in the content. However, Google will not stop a competitor from bidding on that term to gain market share. Their position is that they will investigate the usage, but will not take much action.
Google asks that the trademark owner contact all users directly and ask them to cease use of the term. It is still a good idea to contact Google and inform them that the term has a legal owner. Google asks that you submit proof of “ownership” of a term and state where you have seen the term being used. You can do this on their Trademark Complaint Procedure page. Keep in mind that in many cases the title of an ad is dynamically created from the keyword list and it is not entered by a person.
Yahoo Search Marketing
Yahoo Search Marketing will not allow competitors to bid on trademarked terms. They will, however, allow a directory or chamber site to use the term if their website contains a listing for the owner of the trademarked term. If you suspect a competitor is using a trademarked term, you can e-mail Yahoo the search term which, when entered, caused the advertiser’s listing to appear. Complaints should be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org along with the following information:
- The trademark on which your claim is based
- The registration number, if you own a current registration for the trademark on the Principal Register in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
- If you have evidence of any consumer (website visitor) confusion resulting from the advertiser’s bid on the search term, a description of such evidence.
- The status of your communications with the advertiser if you have contacted them about your concerns
In most cases, your competition will not know you have a trademark on the term. Always begin the process with friendly correspondence asking them to remove the keyword from their online advertising. Show them a link to the page in the United States Patent and Trademark Office that shows ownership of the term or send them a copy of your paperwork. Usually this will be enough to make sure your rights are protected.
Please note that this information is provided as a courtesy and should not be construed as legal advice. Should you need further assistance in dealing with trademark infringements, it is always best to get advice from an experienced patent attorney.
Carrie Hill – Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc.