Google has announced a major change to its global trademark policy. Effective in June, the search giant will permit the use of trademarks as keywords as part of AdWords campaigns in many countries around the world.

Previously, Google was much more restrictive; a permissive policy was the exception and applied only to a handful of countries, including the US, Canada and the UK, where it began allowing the use of trademarks as keywords in 2008.

Google’s 180-degree reversal could have major implications for brands that have previously not faced competition when bidding on keywords related to their own trademarks. The most immediate: the specter of increased costs.

According to Lyndsay Menzies, COO of digital agency Bigmouthmedia, “While dropping trademark protection didn’t send costs skyrocketing to the extent many feared in the UK, during the initial scramble to bid on competitor brand terms we saw cost-per-click prices rise by an average of 400-500%. Those levels proved unsustainable in the long term however, and we would expect any spike in keyword prices to normalise within a matter of weeks“.

Even if the same thing comes to pass here, brands will still have to grapple with a more complex PPC campaign management landscape internationally. They’ll need to manage trademark-related campaigns more effectively since they won’t have the spotlight to themselves (which has its own cost) and they’ll also need to consider their own strategy as it relates to possibly bidding on the trademark keywords of their competitors.

On the Google side of the equation, I think this is another sign of Google getting more aggressive in maximizing revenue from its core business. Since it knows that the law is likely to be on its side in this area, it’s taking advantage of the opportunity and adjusting its policies accordingly.

While that’s a good thing for Google and its shareholders, Google should also be careful that it doesn’t go too far. With more scrutiny being applied to all of Google’s activities, I have a feeling it’s going to need all the friends it can find at some point. Big brands are some of its most desirable customers and it doesn’t want to make life too difficult for them.

Photo credit: ToastyKen via Flickr.