Comparing Google and Microsoft trademark policies

A recent move on part of Microsoft to let advertisers bid on their competitors’ trademarks definitely needs a closer look. For the company, this particular step is likely to fetch higher revenue, as it opens up a popular new segment of key terms on adCenter platform and effectively bidding gets more intense on many of those trademarked brand terms in demand.

Advertisers, who won’t mind bidding on their competitors’ trademarks as preferred keywords, can in a way, cut & paste AdWords brand term ad groups into Microsoft adCenter, to witness quick rise boost in online traffic flow and conversions.

As we’ve grasped in the previous post, with this modification in policy, it becomes possible to poach off trademarks of a competitor by bidding on them as key terms on Yahoo as well as Bing, just the way you have always been permitted to on search engine giant Google. The question to be asked is: If you can bid on trademarks in AdWords and adCenter, does it really mean you can escape any legal action? In this context, we are also looking at recent court decision.

As already informed, a California district court in late January came up with a ruling that can have significant implications particularly for paid search advertisers. In the hearing of a matter involving Harry J. Binder and Disability Group Inc., the judges penalized an overly enthusiastic PPC marketer (in this case, the Disability Group).

The court in this case has ruled that both personal and corporate liabilities are involved. So this issue is not about business risk alone; this is well about your personal liability, as the ruling suggests. In the backdrop of this ruling, having taken a closer look at the Microsoft trademark policy, let us now compare it with that of Google.

Microsoft has indicated that the change will bring their trademark policies in line with prevalent industry standards, in effect, with Google. To an extent, this is correct, though some differences are still there in how the two functionally handle trademark related complaints. Here aspects related to the cross-network compatibility need to be kept in mind in terms of the functional differences and basic similarities that exist between adCenter & AdWords trademark policy implementations.

Usage of trademarks in ads: You’re not allowed to use trademarks in ad text on any of the two networks except for limited fair usage conditions that Google and Microsoft mention on their sites.

Ad display URLs: Google doesn’t take into consideration the display URL for any trademark complaints. Microsoft does, and states it will investigate them, which means if you opt to import the AdWords trademark ad groups as they are into adCenter, they might well be liable to trademark scrutiny. Your ads will face scrutiny if a competitor decides to file a complaint.

We shall further be comparing Google and Microsoft trademark policies in the next post.