Google recently announced that starting September 14, 2010, it will begin to allow advertisers in most European countries to use competitorsÛª trademarks when bidding for online ads. This shift in European policy doesnÛªt come as a complete surprise as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) sided with Google in the LVMH trademark case earlier this year. The judgment found Google and other search engines not liable for trademark infringement when advertisers purchase a keyword based on competitorsÛª trademarks so long as it removes infringing ads promptly when notified.
So what are the implications for brand owners? Simply put, any third party (including competitors) bidding for trademarked keywords is now allowed in these European countries. Google states that the change in policy actually aligns with current policies in the U.S., Britain, Canada and 200 other countries, and will help both users and advertisers improve the usefulness of text ads making ads more specific and relevant for users.
LetÛªs be clear though; not all is lost for brand owners as there is still much that can be done. Google will continue to remove infringing ads taking action upon counterfeit situations ads or landing pages that contain copyrighted material or ads that contain text that confuse users as to the origin of the advertised goods and services. Google will also remove any unauthorized use of trademarks in the ad text in these countries if requested by the brand owner. Finally brand owners always have the option of contacting the advertiser directly to remediate any abusive advertising practices.
The fight against trademark infringement still comes down to this brand owners can and should still continue to enforce on their brands since the onus is on the brand owner to police this kind of activity.
With GoogleÛªs plans to relax its European AdWords policy brand owners need to be that much more proactive in order to defend their rights and protect their brands.
* Policies may vary depending on region. Google recently updated its ad text policy for Canada UK and Ireland to state that trademarks are now allowed in the ad text. “