Google AdWords Trade Mark Policy revised: keyword advertising to go unchecked

From 23 April 2013, Google will no longer monitor or restrict keyword advertising following trade mark complaints in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, and Macau. This is a major policy revision and will significantly hinder trade mark owners’ efforts to combat trade mark misuse on the Internet.

The announcement follows hot on the heels of the High Court’s finding that Google was not responsible for the misleading use of the AdWords service by advertisers who pay Google to display their sponsored links in response to particular search terms.

The effect of the policy change is that a company will be able to have its advertisements displayed when a user searches for a competitor’s brand. For example, when a user searches for “Apple”, the AdWords program may generate an advertisement for Microsoft.

Google will continue to monitor and potentially take action against advertisers who use trade marks within the text of their ads. However, for complaints received after 23 April, no action will be taken to prevent advertisers from using the brand names of their competitors as keywords to trigger the display of their own paid advertisements. Further, all keyword restrictions enforced by Google following trade mark complaints made prior to 23 April will cease on 23 April.

As a result of these changes, brand owners will have to take action directly against rival traders who use Google’s Adword service to mislead consumers.