Microsoft Follows Google’s Rules of Trademark Use In PPC

Microsoft released an announcement today that as of March 3rd, 2011, they will no longer be making editorial investigations into “complaints about trademarks used as keywords to trigger ads on Bing & Yahoo! Search in the United States and Canada.”  What this basically means is they are allowing anyone to bid on a trademarked term for PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, even if someone else owns the trademark on that term. They still, however, will investigate text within the ads (note their new “Investigations” policy).
Trademark Pay Per Click
This basically follows suit with what Google has already been doing – allowing the competitive purchasing of trademarked terms in the United States as PPC keywords, while not allowing the use of trademark terms within text ads (when deemed inappropriate).  The U.S. is one of many regions where Google will not investigate keyword trademarked infringements, but ad text only (see full list here).

According to Microsoft’s new statement, they are only ceasing investigations to the U.S. and Canada on PPC trademark buying, but obviously they could expand their list of regions in the future also.

So what does Microsoft suggest you do if someone is buying your trademarked term, misrepresenting your brand, and stealing your customers?  According to their new Intellectual Property Guidelines, “If there is concern that an advertiser may be using a trademark keyword inappropriately, the trademark owner should contact the advertiser directly.”  So now the onus is on trademark owners to spend the time, effort, money and litigation to exert the government-granted right they paid for to protect a trademark.  This is basically the same stance Google has been taking for a while now.

Of course, one can readily see why both Microsoft and Google don’t want to be the gatekeepers on PPC trademark rights – they want more advertising money.  By opening the flood gates to allow illegal trademark purchasing, they can get a lot more competitors buying click terms.  Pepsi can buy Coca Cola, and Ford can buy Nissan.  It’s up to the trademark owners to battle it out in court.

If you’re a trademark attorney representing a major brand, you will now have to be ever more vigilant in policing the web for cases of trademark infringement.   And if you’re an SMB out there trying to create a brand and protect a trademark on the search engines?  It’s the wild west out there now, and anything goes unless you have the money to take every competitive PPC buyer to court.

Tags: brandjacking, brands, ppc, trademark

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Comments

26 Responses to “Microsoft Follows Google’s Rules of Trademark Use In PPC”

  1. tipshowtoloseweight on June 1st, 2011 5:45 am

    “If there is concern that an advertiser may be using a trademark keyword inappropriately, the trademark owner should contact the advertiser directly.” what if they will not reply? any idea on what should we do next?

  2. niki on June 27th, 2011 4:49 pm

    This is not fair. They should not allow others to bid on a trademarked term for PPC

  3. Mel Lifshitz on July 8th, 2011 2:27 pm

    @niki

    I can’t agree more. A lot will of people will definitely make a fuss.

  4. Rob Benwell on August 13th, 2011 5:46 am

    What I find particularly restrictive (and ridiculous) is that you can’t use trademarks for publications where your business is mentioned. If you are mentioned, ranked, or even interviewed by a major publication, you can’t use the trademark of the publication in an online ad.

    One of my clients was interviewed by a major publication. When I attempted to mention this in the ad, it was flagged based on trademark. I have links to the interview with the major publication on the landing page – and the ad stated this factually rather than trying to appear as an endorsement by the publication.

    Despite my protests, my appeals were denied with what was clearly little to no review. It is apparently cheaper to deny all trademark use globally rather than looking into uses which are clearly legal and based in fact.

  5. Richard on August 18th, 2011 6:47 pm

    I disagree with Niki. You will eliminate so many keywords that marketers can bid on if they returned the trademark rule on Google. Trademark bidding makes sense for a ton of ads online.

  6. Marie Montreal SEO on August 23rd, 2011 4:42 pm

    There are a lot of things these big companies, or companies in general, should not allow but do anyhow. Unfortunately, ethics become murky and distant once profits and business relations are involved. I totally agree, Barry, they do not want to bite the hands that feed them. Advertisers will always be pampered at the expense of the user as long as they’re the major source of Microsoft and Google’s income.

  7. Barry Wheeler on September 19th, 2011 11:02 am

    Isn’t this just something they’re doing to drive revenue? I mean, some of the things they will allow now will be bid on by anyone wanting to make a dollar. I’m sure the trademark holders aren’t pleased with this decision.

  8. chris on September 19th, 2011 1:09 pm

    A bit off subject but the same goes with buying domain names. I tried buying facebookgirlfriend.com and was flagged before I entered my card details

  9. Chas on October 17th, 2011 3:18 am

    What’s the point of a trademark?

    How can a competitor be allowed to use your intellectual property to promote their business? This has nothing to do with the format or type of media where the advertisment is, but rather who stands to profit.

    Trademarks and branding have high costs, and the associated laws concerning these deserve to be upheld by the large media and technology companies. Even is they do have more expensive lawyers.

  10. memory foam mattress topper on October 20th, 2011 5:26 am

    Allowing the competitive purchasing of trademarked terms in the United States as PPC keywords, while not allowing the use of trademark terms within text ads (when deemed inappropriate).

  11. Jake on November 2nd, 2011 8:59 am

    This is real interesting. They are basically claiming that they are not liable for the content that people put in there ads. Well in my opinion this is true. Its just interesting to see that it also applies in such big business. I would think they would get sued like crazy!

  12. Ethicas on November 15th, 2011 5:51 pm

    Moving the responsibility for investigating keyword copyright infringement from themselves to companies enables Microsoft and Google to focus. Focus on their brands, focus on their customers, and focus on reliable web tools for the consumer. Unfortunately this “Wild West” scenario of the web creates a dangerous environment for intellectual property.

    Thank you for the post, very revealing. Don’t know if their action is ethical, but definitely a strong business move.

  13. Floor Plans on December 15th, 2011 11:52 pm

    I could see a lawsuit coming out of this. Not only the advertiser getting sued but Microsoft and Google as well. It will be interesting if any litigation comes about due to this.

  14. techmd on January 11th, 2012 12:10 am

    I feel that trademarked terms should be protected in PPC advertising. I understand the importance of trademarked terms and the protection they should have, and if someone bids on a trademarked term, clearly their intention is to gain business from that trademarked term. The trademark is supposed to protect the registrant of that trademark from anyone else having the ability to use the term to intentionally gain business off of, or to deceive consumers into thinking they are associated with the product’s manufacturing or rights to ownership.

  15. Thomas Bennett on February 17th, 2012 5:52 pm

    Pretty crazy strategy. I have found a lot of companies overseas are writing scripts to copy a websites code (word for word) and put it up on another URL, which I suppose is an infringement.

    Any idea why someone would do that? Does it tie in to advertising somehow? I dont know what goes on behind the scenes there…

  16. Steve on March 2nd, 2012 5:53 pm

    Yeah, unfortunately Google doesn’t really have the kind of oversight that other industries have. I think its alright though to have competition for trademarked terms. I mean just because a company like Nike, for instance, has the brand name doesn’t mean that they should have exclusive rights to advertising. What about all the retailers that sell Nike gear? Shouldn’t they be able to bid and advertise as well?

  17. Mili on June 15th, 2012 11:02 am

    I personally think this is just going to make it so there are constantly brands battling it out in court, I mean I can see why google and microsoft would want to do this as it makes their lives alot easier as they don’t have to deal with the constant problem of copywrite infringment but then at the same time they are much better placed to do this more efficiently than the brands are themselves. As tipshowtoloseweight said alot of the time you are not going to get a reply from advertisers using trademarked brands and this will make sorting it out a long and drawn out process.

  18. Eco Power Solutions on July 10th, 2012 9:38 am

    It’s required for Microsoft.

  19. Jon M Coach on October 31st, 2012 7:42 pm

    Competitors have been doing this kind of infringement for ever. They test the barriers in any and every way they can, from likeness to products… they change the minimum amount necessary to pass right under the radar. So what? Now, hear me out! All this about copyrights and patents… that does nothing for innovation. You have to continuously strive to be the best and deliver superior products. Companies become so protected by their “moats” of branding and marketing that they lose sight of what’s truly important… delivering superior value to the customers. True value will when out every time. Look at dropbox. Look at Google. Their “moat” is ensured by constant innovation. Let other companies waste their time trying to make you look bad while you shine and they fall off the map.

  20. Gerrid Smith on November 29th, 2012 4:19 am

    This move of Microsoft in following the Google’s ruling in the trademark use in PPC is beneficial on their end in either way. First, by refusing to regulate the use of trademark in PPC, they can generate more advertising revenue through those who are purchasing illegal trademark where they can get a lot more competitors buying click terms. Secondly, by doing this, they are making there life easy because they would not be regulating and reviewing trademark issues.

  21. Rich Blogger on December 14th, 2012 10:12 pm

    “Of course, one can readily see why both Microsoft and Google don’t want to be the gatekeepers on PPC trademark rights – they want more advertising money.”

    I 100% completely disagree with this statement.

    MS and Google aren’t doing this for profiteering reasons, they are doing it because they are tired of trying to police it. I very much doubt that they are making a killing off of trademarked PPC words, but the COST of trying to manage it is probably very expensive.

  22. RossDigital on March 5th, 2013 6:23 am

    I was reading an article about a few months ago about Bill Gates. In early 2000′s i think, he said google won’t last. But today it is other way around google growing faster and faster but microsoft going down.

  23. Steve on May 18th, 2013 11:32 am

    I’ve always found it slightly bizarre how you can publish google adwords saying all manner of things, and it’s only policed by Google’s approval team. It means businesses can make all kinds of false promises through their google adwords, and I bet that advertising standards don’t have a team checking google adwords.

  24. Mark Fording on July 22nd, 2013 10:04 am

    I think as a business you just have to accept the brand keyword bidding policy. If you run an affiliate program, you can defend your brand listings in PPC by allowing a few selected affiliates to bid on your terms for positions #2 and #3 under your listing.
    This pushes opportunistic competitors out of the top PPC listings.

  25. Jacob Rainforet on July 24th, 2013 2:54 pm

    This is real interesting. They are basically claiming that they are not liable for the content that people put in there ads. Well in my opinion this is true. Its just interesting to see that it also applies in such big business. I would think they would get sued like crazy!

  26. Three Ladders Marketing on October 11th, 2013 1:27 am

    This is the worst policy. I can’t believe that Google and Bing would turn their heads to competitors, affiliates, arbitragers and whoever else bidding on a term that someone spend thousands and thousands of dollars on to protect.

    What I find interesting, I don’t see any Bing ads when I search on Google for “google adwords”. I can’t imagine Bing or anyone else wouldn’t be advertising on that keyword.

    I also don’t see any Google AdWords ads when I search in Bing for “bing adcenter”.

    Feels a little hypocritical.