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Google announced yesterday that it is going to open up restrictions on trademarked terms in its advertising. Now brands can mention trademarked names in their advertising — both positively and negatively.

Google has been slowly easing standards on its advertising for months, as companies have been bidding less on keyword search terms and the economy has forced margins ever slimmer. Google's decision on trademarks will increase its earnings potential on key words, and is already upsetting companies who fear for their trademarks.

Previously, Google had forbidden companies from placing trademarked terms in their ad copy unless they owned the trademark or had explicit permission to use it. But starting next month they are loosening their rules to be more in line with the industry standard.

In a blog post on Thursday, Google explained:

“Imagine opening your Sunday paper and seeing ads from a large supermarket chain that didn't list actual products for sale; instead, they simply listed the categories of products available - offers like "Buy discount cola" and "Snacks on sale." The ads wouldn't be useful since you wouldn't know what products are actually being offered. For many categories of advertisers, this is the problem they have faced on Google for some time.”

The new stipulation will allow companies to directly mention the brands they sell, but also, they can refer to their competitors, and bid on key words so that their ads show up first on searches for their competiton's products.

While this is available in other online ad markets, the change is likely to spark more lawsuits against Google. Just this week, the company FirePond filed a class-action suit against Google for infringing its trademark and allowing competitors to place ads on searches for the key word "FirePond."

While the rulings on trademark lawsuits can't be predicted — the FirePond lawsuit against Google is the first of its kind — this shift away from trademark protection for the search giant is just a small step away from proprietary ownership of brands online.

The fact that Google is going to profit from this switch is going to irk many companies that already feel like they pay the search giant too much money, but increasingly, companies are learning that they are not in complete control of their brand message online.

Social media is forcing companies to cede control of their image and learn how to maneuver their brands in a space where there is a lot of feedback and it's not necessarily going to be positive.

Brands can spend a lot of time in court protecting their image, or they can start to learn the lesson that will come with time — brands that can handle negative feedback, learn from it and improve their products are the ones that will succeed online in the long run. Dealing with competing brands online is just another step in this process.

Meghan Keane

Published 15 May, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (15)

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Ed

Google simply needs more money! I can't complain about it as allowing us to have trademarked terms in out ad copies will also increase advertisers' profits.

I support this decision, and wonder how far Google will go after advertisers' money!

over 7 years ago

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Ricki Jones

I think that Interflora are currently taking M&S to court for brand infringement. It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this as I believe this will set a precedent or future cases. 

over 7 years ago

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Rob Murray

I agree with Ed...Google do need more money! They keep on relaxing their allowances. Last year they allowed bidding on competitor keywords, now this. No coincidence that it coincides with redundancies at Google. 

over 7 years ago

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guru85

All want to earn more money, and googl no exception.

about 7 years ago

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seo

But don't forget what firstly google work for us

almost 7 years ago

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Florian

Great news for all resellers and affiliates, I doubt it will hurt brand owners much.

almost 7 years ago

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Advair Diskus

I agree with Ed...Google do need more money!

almost 7 years ago

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zumba

The natural search results isnt much different from the paid ones in terms of trademarks.

almost 7 years ago

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zumba

Google keeps making money and finding new ways to do it, even if it may be a lil unethical,

almost 7 years ago

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Orlando Lawyer

Google does allow trademark names in ad copy, but if they get a C&D letter from the company you are promoting your ad is going to get "restricted."

almost 7 years ago

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Alan Foster

how can google decide against advertising practices? i know they're the bosses but i think FTC would be in charge of this

almost 6 years ago

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Auto

Do you think if Google keeps getting sued they'll change their views on this? I know they have plenty of money for lawsuits, but do you think it's a bit of a hassle.

They're gonna do what brings the most money and if this brings them money, they're gonna do it!

over 5 years ago

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Rose

I understand Google's position on this. I mean, it's only logical that they want to earn more profit, but I'm not sure if I agree with their position. Going after people's money in such way isn't exactly what I would call proper behavior/conduct for such a monster like Google.

over 5 years ago

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Mike

All want more money, and I'm too)

over 5 years ago

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Cia

I agree with Ed...Google do need more money!

about 5 years ago

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