Q and A: Can competitors use my company name in their AdWords ads?

QuestionHi Kalena

I have a question. I talked to my Google rep who once said that putting my company’s name in an ad violates Google’s terms. However, in another post on here, you seem to suggest bidding on a brand name is also a violation is that correct? I was under the assumption that was common practice. Is it not? If I could report that to Google, that is important information.

Dom

Hi Dom

I’m not sure if you are referring to your own ads or those created by your competitors, but putting your own company name in your ad is certainly not a violation, it’s encouraged, particularly if yours is a well known brand/name. If you follow this link about Use of Trademarks in AdWords, you’ll find an authorization form you can submit to be able to use your brand / trademark throughout your account.

Now use of your trademark by competitors is where things get complicated. It differs between region and differs again between ad text versus keyword bids. Google actually opened up trademark keyword bidding two years ago, however AdWord’s trademark policy is now dependent on the region your trademark is registered in and the region/s your billing account is located in. So here are the main regional trademark policies:

  1. In certain regions, Google allow some ads to show with a trademark in ad text if the ad is from a reseller or from an informational site. There is a separate trademark policy for resellers and informational sites.
  2. For regions that are NOT included under Google’s trademark policy for resellers and informational sites, if their investigation finds that the advertiser is using the trademark in ad text, Google will require the advertiser to remove the trademark and prevent them from using it in ad text in the future.
  3. In most regions covered by the Trademark policy (including UK, USA and Canada), Google will investigate ad text only. They will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint in these regions. Furthermore, their investigation will only affect ads served on or by Google rather than those served on partner sites.
  4. In EU and EFTA regions, Google does not prevent the selection of trademarks as keywords. However, in response to a complaint, they will do a limited investigation as to whether a keyword (in combination with particular ad text) is confusing as to the origin of the advertised goods and services.
  5. In some limited regions, Google may investigate the use of trademarks in ad text, in keywords, or in both ad text and keywords. These regions include: Australia / Brazil / China / Hong Kong / Macau / New Zealand / North Korea / South Korea / Taiwan

Because Australia and New Zealand are included in the above list (and these are the countries in which I operate), I have witnessed a few keyword trademark infringements and represented some clients who lodged complaints procedures based on this policy.

So the short answer is, unless they have your explicit permission, your competitors generally aren’t allowed to use your brand/name in their own ads, but if you’re located outside the limited regions mentioned above, they ARE allowed to bid on your brand/name as a keyword. But it’s not all bad news – it means that you are allowed to bid on their brand/name as well.

Hope this clarifies things!

Kalena

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