The answer to that question could alarm you. If you thought your website was safe, be aware that there are cases where a corporation successfully sued an advertiser for them using a trademarked term in the copy of the ad on their website. Usually, this is a rare occasion because most advertisers rely on search engines such as Google to act as their intermediary when it comes to exceptions with trademark filings.
As you are reading this, there are currently ads on Google that are using the same trademarked terms on their websites and most website owners have come to rely on Google to stop them from using terms and wording that they should not use. This causes great concern with the notion of one advertiser suing another advertiser over trademarked information in their ads and not abiding by Google’s process correctly.
In the most recent case of this type of action, there were keywords that triggered the trademarked word to appear in their ads. Instances such as these make us aware of the fact they we all need to be up to date on the policies of Google and the usage of trademarks.
According to the current trademark policy on Google, anyone is able to bid on and use a keyword in his or her ads. If and when an advertiser files a complaint, Google will then make the determination of the other advertiser has the right to legally use it. One of the catches with this policy that Google uses is that a lot of keywords are actually industry trademarked. Meaning there are certain keywords such as “apple” that are coined by Macintosh computers, but if you are a produce farmer, using the keyword “apple” is completely legitimate because it is a different industry.
What can you do if you are an advertiser using a trademarked term?
1. Option One – you can file the exception to the trademark with Google. This is not always an ideal choice because if you are not the direct manufacturer of the trademarked item, you still want others to be able to use it to help marketing it.
2. Option Two – Choosing to not act. Sometimes doing nothing about the situation is the best way to go.
3. Option Three – Be selective when you are thinking about suing – determine if it is worth the costs and fees associated with it.
Sometimes it is really hard to determine if you are using a trademarked item on your website or in your advertising content. There can be very few differences between what you use and what is trademarked. If we rely on the three major search engines, which are Yahoo, Google and MSN, they need to have consistent policies in effect to create a uniform way of handling these issues. It would make things much easier on all of the marketers if they could go without the legal fines and tap dancing around the fine lines of infringing on other advertisers rights.
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