Policy change is legally sound – Google

Google has broken its silence over the recent trademark furore and said it would not have made the controversial move if it contravened UK trademark and advertising regulations.

The statement follows a frenetic period for search marketers in the travel sector, ending late last week with Teletext issuing a legal threat to any company bidding on its trademarked brand name on Google’s paid search listings.

A Google spokesman told Travolution: “We conducted a full legal and business review in the UK and Ireland before we made this change.

“We are confident that our policy is compliant with UK & Irish law.”

Travolution understands that a number of other travel companies are considering their legal position following the policy change on May 5, alongside the recent public statements by Teletext and Lastminute.com, which is considering action against Google.

Travel giant Thomas Cook confirmed to Travolution that it has implemented a zero tolerance policy and has already terminated the contracts of five partners – travel agents or affiliates – who have bid on brand names associated with Thomas Cook run companies.

The group said it would also act quickly if other companies are found to be bidding against any Thomas Cook site.

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook Group said: “Parties advertising on our brands where they neither have access to, nor sell our products, are clearly misleading the consumer, and any activities along these lines are a clear breach of trademark law.

“In these situations, we will have no hesitation in immediately implementing the necessary legal action.”

Meanwhile there are increasing levels of anger towards Google and a number of travel companies capitalising on the recent relaxation of brand bidding rules.

The widely expected “bun-fight” took place as expected last week and saw what is understood to be a “substantial” increase in the amount of search marketing activity on paid-for listings as rules preventing brand bidding were relaxed.

Google refused to comment on speculation that the travel vertical has seen the highest amount of brand bidding activity among the main UK advertising sectors.

A number of major travel companies remain resolute in their approach to the issue and have not scaled back their brand name bidding in the face of legal action.

One senior executive from a company currently bidding on a range of other brand names told Travolution: “Sadly, the dispatch of threatening legal letters will always be successful by simply intimidating small companies (because of the possible legal costs involved will outweigh any benefit).”

In another twist, it emerged last week that the widely talked about “gentleman’s agreements” behind the scenes between some advertisers could contravene Competition Act regulations.

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