Google to allow trademark terms in AdWords

UK customers of Google’s AdWords will be able to include their affiliates’ trademarked terms in their AdWords text, according to an official blog post.

AdWords product manager Dan Stokeley said that the change, which brings the UK into line with the US, will take place from 14 September.

The policy will allow “advertisers to use third party trademarks in their ad text,  even if they don’t own that trademark or have explicit approval from the trademark owner to use it.”

Google argues that this improves the experience for users. An example from the US of how the change works in practice refers to the clothing vertical: “Resellers of jeans have been able to highlight the actual brands they sell in their ad text making their ads even more specific and relevant for users.”

This, in principle, will also apply to resellers of travel products. UK agency BigMouthMedia has issued a statement in response to Google’s announcement in which it says that price comparison sites will be the main beneficiary of the change. Travel, finance and electronics are the verticals which will be most affected by this, it said.

Hannah Kimuyu, head of paid search at Greenlight, expressed concerns that allowing trademarked terms to be included in the ad copy would confuse customers. For some verticals such as pharmaceuticals the confusion could be harmful and damaging to the consumer as well as the brand. “There is a level of legal responsibility which Google is removing itself from,” she suggested.

This week’s announcement also said that Canadian users of Ad Words will also be able to use trademarked terms in ad copy.

The blog post also announced that AdWord customers in Europe will be able to bid directly on trademarked terms, bring the continent into line with the US, Canada  and UK/Ireland.

Some commentators have suggested that the impact of the change when introduced  in the UK was mitigated by gentleman’s agreements between firms not to bid against each other for trademarked terms. Whether or not European businesses adopt a similar approach remains to be seen.

Google’s approach to trademarked brand names has proved controversial. Earlier this year, Google was effectively given the all-clear when the European Court of Justice ruled in its favour in a long-running court battle with luxury goods manufacturer LVMH.

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