When you search your company’s name in Google, do your competitors’ ads show up? And more importantly, can you make them stop? That answer is not a simple yes or no. Trademarks are a heavily debated subject when it comes to pay per click advertising, and there are a wide set of rules governing their use.
First it’s important to identify how your trademarked terms are being used. Is your trademark in the text of the offending ad, or is it used as a keyword that triggers the ad to show up? For example, both of the ads below showed up for a Google search of the word “Toyota”. The ad on the left is using the trademarked term as a keyword and in the text of the ad. The ad on the right is only using the term as a keyword.
Some search engines, like Yahoo and MSN, do not allow competitors to use trademarked terms in the ad text or as a keyword. They will even check ads for common trademarks before they are published. Google on the other hand, will allow the use of trademarked terms as keywords, but not in the text of the ad (note: this only applies in the US and Canada). Google also puts the burden of proof onto the owner of the trademark. If you see that your trademarked term is being used in the text of someone else’s ad, you must file a complaint with Google to have those ads removed.
Search Engine Trademark Policies:
- Google’s Trademark Policy Explained
- Yahoo’s Search Marketing Trademark Policy
- MSN’s Live Search Trademark Guidelines
To file a trademark complaint: