Trademark terms in Google paid search…

February 16, 2007

Google is fighting for the right to allow it’s paid search advertisers to bid on trademarked keywords. This strange move seems to have come about thanks to Google’s ongoing litigation with Rescuecom, the litigation has been ongoing since September 2004.

Google has filed a brief in the case this week which makes a compelling argument as to why sales of trademarked keywords to it’s advertisers should be allowed. Google say that companies associate products with competitors all the time in other forms of advertising and that so doing doesn’t cause confusion for customers – which is what a trademark is supposed to protect.

Google’s lawyers say: “Generic brands are placed next to known brands on store shelves for the express purpose of diverting customers from the brand they are seeking to another, and their manufacturers pay for that placement,advertisers deliberately select magazine ad placements next to articles about their competitors. … All manner of companies pay for coupon placements selected based on a customer’s purchase of their competitors’ products. And so on. Of course they are seeking to ‘hijack’ or ‘divert’ consumers who have indicated an interest in their competitors’ products. That’s the point of contextual advertising — to target ads at consumers who are actively interested in your type of product, rather than indiscriminately at the world at large.”

It’s a fairly persuasive argument but in my opinion could spell trouble for Google if the rule changed. Trademark terms drive a huge proportion of our paid search traffic and it’s the highest quality (and converting) paid search traffic as well (for obvious reasons). Diluting that (which any change would) could make Google a less attractive place to pump our money and make us move to other CPA alternatives even quicker than is already happening.

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