Are you currently Search Engine Marketing? …Advertising on Adwords? AndMine purchase plenty of digital advertising for our clients, especially on Adwords.  The constantly growing Google platform is under pressure from new cases testing the use of competitors trademarks, trading names, product names or a website addresses (brandwords). Buying competitors brandwords and re-directing them to another website, should this be allowed? This could be the case of Trademark Infringement.

For example, if a user Google searches ‘Harvey World Travel’, an ad would shows up with the title ‘Harvey World Travel’. But clicking on this ad takes the user to a website for STA Travel! AndMine sees a tougher challenge is around businesses which own brandwords that are also common terms, for example “Real Estate” for realestate.com.au.

AndMine have recently advised a number of clients, on both sides of this argument. We strongly focus on the users perspective; If you’ve searched “Harvey World Travel” wouldn’t you want to be taken to that site? For our clients, we advise to purchase keywords that will have a lower bounce rate and higher engagement; Thus buying competitors brandwords will confuse users and render poorer conversion results. As for common terms like “real estate”, this isn’t best practice either, as the cost of acquisition is typically many times more than less competitive keywords. This is also Trademark Infringement.

Different courts across the globe are ruling for and against these practices.

In Australia, Online Ad spending is worth around $830 million per year. The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) was in a to-and-fro battle with Google over competitor brandwords advertising. The ACCC posted their 2011 appeal recently to the High Court and won last month.

However a recent EU case the courts said “Using rivals’ trademarks in Google Adwords is fair competition unless the products are imitations”. Very interesting.

While the line is being decided worldwide, for now, Australian businesses should not use brandwords of a competitor as part of an AdWords campaign as this may constitute a breach of consumer protection laws. In addition campaigns should be designed to maximise engagement, buying competitors brandwords will dilute conversion.

Businesses should monitor the use of their own brandwords in Googles paid search by competitors. AndMine recommends pointing them to this article and asking them to stop the practice of Trademark Infringement before taking further action. Contact AndMine if you would like us to review a particular scenario for your business. You may also contact the ACCC if a “Sponsored Link” on Google infringes your brandwords which maybe misleading to your potential customers.

Michael Simonetti
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