When do search keyword advertising become trademark infringement?

May 9, 2019 | Trademark Knowledge

Online search ads are the back bone of the modern economy. Most purchases of any value starts with a search on a search engine such as Google or Bing. Consumers might be searching for a product type like “cars” or a longer phrase they think will be useful like “best cars 2019.”

But what happens when one company pays a search engine to show their ads when a consumer is searching using a competitors trademark?

For example, a person searches for “Toyota” and their competitor Honda pays the search engine to have its own ads shown.

Google writes this in their help section – “We don’t investigate or restrict trademarks as keywords.” So at least as far as Google is concerned, this is ok.

Another usage would be if you include trademarked terms in your advertising text.

About this, Google writes – “Google abides by local trademark laws and requires that Google Ads ads don’t infringe third party trademarks.”

That sounds harsh. But the next sentence is very important. “We recognize that third parties may properly use trademarks in certain situations, such as by resellers to describe products.”

So don’t use someone else’s trademarks as keywords to advertise on unless you have the right to do so as a reseller or if you are an informational site. You could of course also obtain specific authorization from the trademark holder to use the trademark.

And, make sure to trademark your own brand and product names so your competitors can’t steal away customers who are looking for you.

Google also says that if you find that someone is infringing on a trademark you own, you can make a report.

If however you haven’t registered your trademark yet, you should take time to consult a trademark agent to let you develop a trademark strategy. Because search keywords indicate demand, advertisers continuously add or change their keywords, and someone might already include your word mark.

If you don’t own a trademark yet, the best course of action is to register it as soon as possible. It won’t completely prevent competitors from using it, but it will still provide brand protection in the long-run.

MUSA Trademark specializes in trademark application and registration for local and international companies in Taiwan. Contact us today for FREE  trademark strategy consultation.

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