• Google Allows Trademark Owners to Block Purchase of their Marks as AdWords
  • August 8, 2011 | Author: Meaghan Hemmings Kent
  • Law Firm: Venable LLP - Washington Office
  • Purchase of trademarks as keywords or “AdWords” by competitors can seem like a never-ending battle for trademark owners attempting to enforce their trademarks and stop apparent piggy-backing off of their established trademarks. Case law continues to be somewhat unclear on this issue and relatively weak for trademark owners and depends largely on the subjective evaluation on a case-by-case basis of whether a consumer is likely to be confused by a particular advertisement.

    Rather than initiating litigation, a common first step in battling purchase of AdWords is to reach out to Google through its complaint form. In response to a complaint issued to Google, Google typically will stop a competitor from using a trademark within the header or body of a paid advertisement. However, Google will not typically prohibit that competitor from purchasing your trademark as a keyword, meaning that when a customer searches for your trademark, Google allows a paid advertisement for a competitor to appear so long as it does not use your trademark in the advertisement itself.

    However, there is some good news: trademark owners now have a method for waging a preemptive strike. Google is allowing trademark owners to limit the particular entities that are authorized to purchase their trademarks as AdWords. Google offers a form called a “Google Adwords 3rd Party Authorization Request” whereby a trademark owner can limit the purchase of its trademarks as AdWords to specific entities. This effectively blocks all entities who are not listed as an authorized entity from purchasing the trademark as an AdWord.

    In completing this form, you must provide the Google Customer ID for the entities who may purchase your trademark as an AdWord (this might be limited to the trademark owner or might also include an outside marketing company or some affiliates or licensees). Once you have done that, no other entity - including your competitors - should be allowed to purchase your trademark as an AdWord. Note that this is specific to the exact trademark and will not stop competitors from purchasing variations on your trademark. It is an excellent tool that trademark owners should consider in their battle to protect their valuable intellectual property.