Hot off the press from Google is big news that they are changing the way their trademark policy works in the US (view new policy). Under Google’s existing trademark policy, even if you carried a specific name-brand product, you might not be able to advertise that Google Changes Trademark Policyname in your ad. Meaning, if the BrandX camera company told Google not to let anyone use the BrandX trademark, you couldn’t actually say you sold BrandX cameras in your ads. Kind of silly. As Google said in their email, “the ads wouldn’t be useful since you wouldn’t know what products are actually being offered.”

This is especially silly, since any experienced pay-per-click (PPC) advertising manager knows that using the keyword that someone searches on in your ad helps increase CTR. I’ve never understood the fact that a company will allow someone to sell their product, but not allow them to use the product’s name to advertise it, but it happens all the time.

Under the existing Google Trademark Policy, you can contact the BrandX company and get written approval to use the trademark in your ad. But a lot of times it’s a time-consuming process – Google requires very specific language sent in an email to their trademark policy department, you can’t just use a blanket letter from the company or verbal permission. With some companies it was ridiculous in how long it took to get the required email. The bigger the company, the longer it seemed to take. I had one client that it took a month-and-a-half to get approved by legal – a four-line sentence took three lawyers and a month-and-a-half of time.

So I’m very glad to see Google has revisited their trademark policy, and the new policy seems pretty reasonable. There’s some pretty specific guidelines for the trademark use because we wouldn’t want anyone to be able to use any trademark as they saw fit. Here’s the new Google Trademark Policy, in a nut shell:

1. You can use a trademarked term at Google AdWords if you use it in a generic or descriptive way and not in reference to that specific trademark. I’m thinking Kleenex instead of tissue.

2. You can use the trademarked term at Google AdWords if you are a reseller of the trademarked product and your landing page and website clearly demonstrate that you can purchase that trademarked product. Since you are a reseller of BrandX cameras, you could now say that in your ad.

3. You can use the trademarked term at Google AdWords if you are a seller of replacement parts, components or compatible products and your landing page and website clearly demonstrate that you can purchase the trademarked product. If you sold camera bags and lens that were compatible with BrandX cameras, you could say so.

4. You can use the trademarked term at Google AdWords if your site is for “non-competitive and informative details”. The “advertiser may not sell or facilitate the sale” of a competing product of the trademarked term. Basically, you can’t advertise on BrandX, take them to an “informational” site that sings the praises of BrandY versus BrandX and then try to sell them on BrandY.

Some other things to keep in mind. This new trademark policy is for US ads served on, and US users for Search and Content networks. Google started accepting new ads with trademarked terms on Friday, May 15th, but will not begin running them until June 15th. If you currently have ads with trademarked terms that are disapproved, you’ll need to resubmit them.

I’m really pleased with this new change to the Google AdWords Trademark Policy. I think Google did a fine job of improving the results a search user gets, while still respecting the rights of the trademark owners. We’ll see how it plays out, but I think it will benefit everyone involved.

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