Policy shift allows advertisers to use others' trademarks under some conditions, even when the owners object to that use.
Google will begin allowing advertisers in the United States to use trademarked terms in their advertisements -- including ones they don't own -- a move designed to revive its sagging ad revenue but likely to irk brands that are already chafing at Google's fast-and-loose policy toward trademark protection.
Google compared its old policy of not allowing trademarked terms in ads to Sunday circulars that only advertise "snacks for sale" or "shoes available," in a blog post.
"The ads wouldn't be useful since you wouldn't know what products are actually being offered," Dan Friedman of Inside Adwords wrote. "For many categories of advertisers, this is the problem they have faced on Google for some time."
"Under certain criteria, you can use trademark terms in your ad text in the U.S. even if you don't own that trademark or have explicit approval from the trademark owner to use it. This change will help you to create more narrowly targeted ad text that highlights your specific inventory," he continued.
Those criteria include referring to the trademarked terms in "a descriptive or generic way," and the advertiser must either be re-selling, facilitating the sale of or offering information about the trademark holder's products or components of those products. Google says it will perform limited investigations into complaints about its clients violating those rules.
The new rules are not likely to improve Google's standing among companies who complain that the search giant impinges their trademarks by letting competitors buy the rights to their brand names.
Earlier this week, Firepond, a Texas software company, filed a class-action suit against Google claiming trademark infringement because consumers searching for "Firepond" were clicking on the sponsored links of their competitors.
Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!*
*Early Bird Rates expire April 17.
Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.
Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?
March 19, 2014