Post a new topic
    4 Replies Latest reply on Aug 11, 2008 5:46 PM by wealthoffice

    Adwords and Tradmark Violation

    Milleisen Scout
      Here's an intesting topic I hadn't previously thought of. I just got an email from a company who asked that I remove their business name from my keywords because it was a violation of their trademark. I did a quick search the prevailing thought seems to be that its ok to use a trademarked name as a keyword, you just can't use the trademarked name in your ad. That makes sense to me, because just by using their name as a keyword, in no way was I pretending to be them or even offer the same services they do. When it comes to advertising, isn't it just like having your newspaper ad run next to your competition?

      Does anyone know what the story is, and have there been any suits that played out in court one way or another?
        • Re: Adwords and Tradmark Violation
          Iwrite Pioneer
          I am not going to pretend to know the law as it applies to the Internet but using a trademarked name without acknowledging it in a disclaimer is dangerous in off-line advertising. I know that there is much discussion about trademark protection because most of the laws covering it were written well before the internet came into existence. Even if it is not illegal, a larger company can attempt to make an example of you buy pushing the issue and making the courts decide one way or the other. I have worked for clients who had no problem spending a few hundred thousand dollars to send a message. There are companies that take the infringement on their brand very seriously as we all should. Do not believe you are ever too small or that the offense is of no consequence that they will not come after you.

          Be very careful. Consult a lawyer.

          I would not do this except to draw a comparison, and then I would have consulted my attorney to make sure everything is okay. Using a company's trademarked name in to generate business is not ethical to me. Whether it is legal online or not is not for me to decide, but as it has been mentioned before legal and ethical are not always the same. I woud not want it done to me, so I will not do it to others.
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: Adwords and Tradmark Violation
              Milleisen Scout
              Excellent points Iwrite. I took the keyword out, because quite frankly I don't get any clicks from that keyword anyway and I believe in being a good neighbor. I could see the big boys throwing out a law suit just to protect their turf. I've heard of this happening a number of times, even when there is little merit behind it. There was once an entreprenuer I knew who invented one of those little novelty items like Billy The Singing Bass, except it was a guy called a Beer Buddy. The idea was to sell it to bars. Budweiser got wind of it and threatened to sue because it had the word "Bud" in it. The entreprenuer has to back off because even if he did win, he knew the legal costs would be prohibative.

              I'm struggling with the issue of whether or not it's ethical. The spirit of a trademark is that nobody else can use it, so that your identity as a business is not confused with another. If I list my competitors name as a keyword, but my ad has no mention of that competitor and I in no way am representing that I am them or can even do what they do, am I really infringing on them? If that is infringement, then would it also be infringment if I had metatags in my site to have my site come up high in normal search rankings for that company? It seems like a slippery slope.
            • Re: Adwords and Tradmark Violation
              Lighthouse24 Ranger

              I don't know that this is what's going on in your particular case . . . but just as there are "ambulance chasers" in the legal profession, there are those who make a living on potential cases involving infringement of intellectual property. It works something like this:

              A law firm contacts a company that owns a trademark, say they've found 113 cases of the company's trademark being violated, and offer to send letters to the violators to ensure that company is aggressively protecting its rights in the marketplace. That sounds good to the company, so they agree (especially if they don't have a legal department, or if their attorneys on retainer specialize in something else -- like tax or employment law). Soon, the "violators" (like you) get a letter. If you comply, the lawyer gets his fee. If you fight, the lawyer gets a court case to prepare for (bigger fee). You'd probably win the fight, but it might cost more time and money than it's worth -- which is what the law firm is counting on.

              It's another one of those ridiculous things that makes being in business more expensive for all 114 businesses involved in the example above, and therefore makes all of their products and services more expensive for all of their customers. My suggestion is always to try to contact the management of the company and make an appointment for a conference call (attorneys optional -- if they want theirs, fine, you'll have yours on the call, too -- but if not, great). Three-fourths of the time, everyone agrees it's a "non-problem" and things go on as before. (The other one-fourth are just unreasonable, so you have to decide if it's worth the battle.)

              As I noted, that may not be the case here, but it wouldn't surprise me.
              • Re: Adwords and Tradmark Violation
                wealthoffice Newbie
                Yes, the same thing happened to my other company. We looked for terms that people commonly search and at the same time would be appropriate for my audience. One term people were searching was for another company name that was related as to the target market but we had a totally different product. In our adwords if they typed any search term it would be above our ad. I was told by my web guy that there is no issue because we are just presenting thier search term and not trying to purposely mislead the audience. However, if there is any chance that you may have to work with the other company then I would remove the term, and you may want to analyize to see if people are coming to your site expecting the other site they searched for and just leave--then you are just wasting money.

                1 of 1 people found this helpful