Trademark 'Piggybacking' and a look at the WSJ article

David Naffziger Jun 3, 2008

The WSJ published an article today about trademark 'piggybacking' in Google's search advertising, and the growing resentment of the practice by Google's advertisers. They use the term 'piggybacking' to refer to the use of:

major players' brand names, slogans or other trademarked words in the text of search ads to lure Web surfers to their own sites.

Obviously, large brands aren't very favorable towards this practice and the article goes on to reference several lawsuits that have been around for awhile.

However, the examples that the WSJ provides are probably the result of companies that haven't notified Google about trademark usage. Google does enforce trademarks, but only if the trademark owner has requested Google enforce them.

While this is certainly a common practice, we've found true to their word when they block the use of trademarked terms in ad copy. However, this doesn't apply to display URLs, and it also doesn't apply to slight variations in the trademarked term.

For example, take a look at this search for Macy's Coupons:

Brand piggybackers are using these terms to get around Google's filtering:

  • M acys (there is a space there)
  • MacysCoupon
  • MacysStore
  • MacysGift
  • macys.my.<domain_name>

Clever - especially since most of these ads are run by Macy's affiliates. Certainly more difficult to accurately catch these examples than exact usage of trademarked terms.

Simply put, brands need to be aggressive with their trademarks. They can sue Google all they want, but unless they take proactive measures their brands will continue to be abused.

Topics: Search Engine Updates, Paid Search

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