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Google has announced changes to the way in which it deals with trademarks and Google AdWords at a press conference this morning.
In a move which brings the UK in line with its US policy, advertisers will now be able to include trademarked words and phrases in their Google ads without the trademark owners permission.
Since a change back in May 2008, advertisers have been able to bid on trademarked phrases on Google, but until this latest change, use of trademarks within ad text has strictly been with the trademark owner's permission only.
The changes, which come into force on September 14, will see Google wash their hands of the trademark argument, and come soon after winning a high profile legal battle against Louis Vuitton in the EU law courts.
Why has Google made this move?
Im sure Google would argue that it is just bringing the UK in line with its US trademark policy and also that it is in the interest of user experience.
One of the stipulations of being able to include trademarks in ad text is that you must link through to a page about the trademark or product. This effectively means that retailers and resellers will be able to use the trademark, but competitors will not.
Google has perhaps decided, through its US experiences and through the Louis Vuitton case, that it is unlikely to be liable for any cases brought, and it removes a large administrative burden.
At present, if an advertiser wants to be approved for use of a trademark they must provide an email stating approval, which then has to be processed by Google before their account is white-labelled. This process needs to be managed by Google and once removed, this will free up the staff and technology currently involved.
What can we expect on September 14th?
There will probably a little craziness for a short time, but it will soon sort itself out. I imagine the market will still be policed, just not by Google. Retailers and trademark owners will find new ways of limiting unwanted trademark usage via business relationships and affiliate terms.
It will probably take a little while for them to develop their stance and enforce it, but things will probably calm down within a month or two.
How should you prepare for this?
As an trademark owner, have a look around your trademarked terms now and have a look who is appearing on them, have they got content about your trademarked phrase or product? If so, they will be able to include the phrase in their ad text.
Consider what implications this has to you and whether you want to find other ways to enforce a trademark removal. If they are resellers of your product you can still enforce a ban through this relationship, regardless of Google's stance. If they are an affiliate then you can do this through your affiliate marketing terms and conditions.
As an agency, you need to speak to your clients and agree how you are going to deal with this. In many cases it may not actually impact your click through rate (CTR). If you have a clear URL and prominent positions you may see little change.
If you are acting on behalf of the reseller, then make sure you have a whole host of new ads lined up for submission in September, as it could provide a boost to your performance.