Google’s Trademark Policy Changes: The Glass Half-Full View

By Kris McDermott, Account Strategist

I’m sure I’m not the only one that had a few moments of panic when Google released its changes to its trademark policy last week. “But I market for retailers!” I spat to anyone that would listen. “This will destroy us! Our CPC’s! Why?”

Once I stopped hyperventilating and actually read the rest of the trademark policy, I realized that for most e-tailers, this could be a beautiful thing. I decided to think about this change in a positive way. And I felt sheepish, but it was okay—because I had one simple thought: “no more trademark exceptions.”

One of the more frustrating aspects of running a search campaign for someone that sells brand name products is having to chase after the trademark owner to persuade them that your brand is worthy of a trademark exception. If they are indeed deemed worthy, the trademark holder informs their Google rep that it shall be done, and the trademark gods smile upon you (usually after another round of creative review, of course). If you’re a major retailer, it becomes downright painful- organizing list after list of products you’re seeking exceptions for, badgering the account manager in charge, resubmitting creative.

Not anymore, my friends. Google has announced the following changes to its trademark policy, allowing that you may use a trademarked term if any of the following apply:

  • If the term is generic or descriptive and unrelated to a competitor’s actual trademarked term, it’s fair game. A horse farm, for example, could use the term “Mustang” because it’s not capitalizing on the car’s brand.
  • If the advertiser sells a trademarked product, resells a trademark product or sells replacement parts for a trademarked product, that term can be used. This is a major win for retailers- no more having to call a product a “New Popular Maker mp3 Players” when they can just say “iPod.”
  • If the advertiser is a non-biased, informational site (not affiliated with sales of the trademarked product in any way), it’s okay to advertise for that term. Product review sites like CNET, for example, can send their customers to “HP Computer Reviews” in the search copy.

Retailers aren’t the only ones that benefit from this change. Franchise owners, for example, are no longer forced to request permission from corporate offices to run on their own brand. It’s a dream come true for affiliate marketers, whose ads could virtually become indistinguishable from the actual trademarked advertiser’s ad.

For now, I’m choosing to think of this as an exciting change. What’s the bad news about the change? Well, that’s for another blog post.


CJeffCampbell said...

Thanks Kris - good stuff. Do you think you could add a link in the intro paragraph to Google's actual policy? THanks.

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