Google Opening Up Trademarked Keyword Bidding on June 4th

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Google plans to open up trademarked keywords to AdWords advertisers in June according to Michael Orey of Business Week. Beginning June 4th, companies will be able to bid on the brand names of their competition, which will heat up the AdWords listings throughout Google and lead to head to head battles in the SERPs over branded product, service and company names.

Google has also released a list of the countries and regions where they will not investigate the use of trademarked keywords.

Starting June 4, marketers in about 200 countries will be allowed to purchase rival trademarks as keywords to trigger display of “sponsored search” ads on Google. Honda, for instance, could bid to have one of its ads displayed when a consumer searches the term “Toyota.” In recent years some companies have sued Google or the competing company, saying the practice is a form of trademark infringement.

The decision to implement the strategy more widely suggests that Google is confident it is operating on sound legal footing.

All gloves are off come June 4th … how will you prepare for the battle royal over trademarked terms in Google?

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
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  • Sebastien

    Perfect! Just one of my competitors sent me an email because I was bidding for one of his TM. I guess I just have to ignore him until June 4th 🙂

  • John Santangelo

    WTF? This doesn’t jive with a recent court ruling –

  • 800 Numbers

    Google has allowed bidding on these terms for quite some time, the only change here is that they aren’t going to accept complaints anymore. You can bid on a competitor’s trademark, just not use the trademark in your ad. The bigger issue will be how affiliate marketers abuse this policy.


    That’s money right there! Thanks for the heads up.

  • Nick Throlson

    Wow thanks for the heads up gotta get on this asap before everyone else does lots of money to be made on trademarked keywords

  • Gregory Moore

    Google is right.

    If somebody makes a ketchup bottle that looks exactly like a Heinz product, I might be confused. That’s trademark violation.

    But if I search for Honda and see an ad for Toyota, I’m not confused. People realize the search engines present a variety of results. If I search for Macys and Bloomingdales is having a sale, I may want to know about it.

    When considering a product, the quickest way to find their competitors and compare is to search for the brand term and click the ads of their competitors.

    It’s the large, established brands that don’t want small newcomers to bid on their brand terms. Their arguments about trademark violation are bogus, because trademark violation turns on confusion, and nobody is confused.

    I’m surprised Google isn’t making more noise about Anti-Trust violations, where more powerful companies use unfair means to shut out newer or smaller companies and prevent fair competition, because that’s a lot of what’s going on when a company complains about someone bidding on their trademarked brand terms.

    Bravo to Google for letting people find relevant information, for taking a stand to promote fair competition in the marketplace, and for making it easier to get the word out about products and services people may be interested in.

    Other than that I have no opinion. : )

  • SearchDarren

    The companies that are most protective of their trademarked brand name are those who are market leaders and who’s brands are synomonous within the market that they operate. For example, Interflora in the UK are very keen not to let other advertisers let the public know that they offer a competitive and often cheaper product or service. Without the strength of their brand, they have little to offer.

    In most examples, it is not really a big deal. The examples used in this article, Honda and Toyota. If you search for Honda, you are looking for a quick link to the Honda website – nothing else. The searcher at this point is not likely to be convinced to go elsewhere based on this search.

  • PPCfool

    I guess Google is just pushing the burden of TM protection back to the companies themselves.

    So how does this work when the companies tell you to cease and desist bidding on their TM terms?
    I’ve gotten a few, even though google allows bidding on these terms …

  • Paul Lambert

    Vendors, merchants, and affiliate networks will stll keep their policies tough. So not much would change except for possibly putting up ads to redirect visitors away from Dot Com’s and to another competing site.


  • David Rothwell |

    Only insecure companies who fear their competition are making noises about this. As a Google user, I *need* to see the full landscape so I can make an informed choice. That is what Google is all about.

    And if I search for a term, and see competitor info showing up on the *left* side of the page (Free organic rankings) – is that TM infringement *too*??

    What complete nonsense!

  • Almit

    i like this

  • Jason Forthofer

    I would imagine that merchants will begin allowing their affiliates to bid on their trademark keywords more. We allow it on all of our programs. I’d rather have one of our affiliates bidding on it and outbidding our competitors (hopefully) or at least taking up some search real estate.

  • SearchEDU

    Google is killing small business!

    As a regional provider of educational services this is really going to kill my business. Small and mid-sized companies do not have the capital to outbid the top tier conglomerates to protect their own trademark.

    Our trade name is all that we have; it is what we have been diligently building for 20+ years. My organization cannot out bid, out SEO, or out advertise the larger competition that spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Without the ability to protect my trademark they will own every aspect of lead generation.

    Just like they own the affiliate results pages they are now going to own the search engine results pages (SERPs) as well.

  • Ken

    I agree with SearchEDU. This is just another way for big brands to push small brands around.

    Look at Gatorade. Do you think Kevin Garnett said oh my god, oh my god, Gatorade please sponsor me! I want to endorse your product soooo bad. No. Gatorade said hey KG we’ll pay $500,000 a year to only be seen drinking Gatorade.

    That’s garbage. Where is the creativity in that.

    The only bright side I see is that it will validate your market if you have competitors bidding on your name. It basically proves you have something other companies care about and that they see you as competition.

    You can’t be afraid of people finding your competitors, you should instead show them why you’re better and why you’re an authority in that given market.

    At the end of the day though who clicks those links on the side anyways? Let your competition waste their money on pointless pay per click ads.

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  • Jake

    It’s now a month since this was changed. Since 5th June 09 I have had 0 (zero) impressions! OK, so I’m only a minor fish with a few dollars spend per day budget, but I was happy with the 2-300 or so visitors it brought me every month.

    Anyone know what might have happened to my account?

    Cheers for the informative article, too.