Are you familiar with Google AdWords policy on Trademarks in advertisements placed on Google or throughout the Google network? You may think you know their policy on Trademarks, and you might, but just to be sure read on and consult Google’s policy.
Background on AdWords & Trademarks
Google AdWords allows you to place an advertisement on their site or across their network. You pay when people click your advertisement, what is known as Pay Per Click (PPC). They also provide display advertising and video advertisements. Most of the advertising is text.
Instead of getting into the details of trademarks and service marks here is some reference material. In the United States there are three levels of rights to be aware of. First of all there is common law that may afford you rights in a mark through use of the mark, then there is State by state registration (more here at FindLaw), and finally federal registration of Trademarks from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
AdWords and Your Trademark
Let us assume your Trademark is Kleenex. You may not want anyone to be using your trademark in their advertisements for a variety of reasons. This is a common issue with advertisers that have affiliates and they tell their affiliates they cannot bid on keywords or phrases that have their trademark such as Kleenex. Many people believe you can simply tell Google not to allow others to put your trademark in their advertisement or bid on your trademark as a keyword. Then Google will not allow it. If that is what you assumed, that is not entirely correct.
From Google’s policy note the following:
Please note the regions where we will investigate ad text only. We will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint in these regions.
So they will investigate use of your trademark within the advertisement text however they will NOT disable the bidding of your trademark as a keyword. This means that if your trademark was Kleenex competitors of yours could bid on the keyword Kleenex. When someone searches on the word Kleenex your competitors can place an advertisement such as “Buy the best tissues around, get them here”. Here on the Google AdWords policy on Trademarks there are two links that expand. One that shows the regions that they investigate ad text only and those that they investigate ad text and keywords. Note that in the United States they only investigate ad text and not the keywords, also note that in most regions they only investigate ad text. There are probably many reasons why, one of course being the fact that the more keywords people can bid on the more money they can make and trademarks just may be a significant chunk of revenue.
Most importantly you need to understand how Google does and does not assist you with Trademark monitoring.