Brands face UK battle to protect trademarks

Experts are warning the cost of branded online-search terms will soar as a result of Google's plans to allow advertisers to use other brands' trademarks in the text of their ads.

Brands such as Apple, Cadbury's, Adidas are also being warned that they will face a battle to protect their brand integrity as online retailers will be able to drive traffic using big brand names to lure in consumers.

In June, the search giant will ditch its current US trademark policy so that advertisers can highlight specific brands rather than generic terms such as trainers or computers.

Advertisers will not need approval from the trademark owner to use their brand name under the new policy which expected to follow in the UK.

Google has already removed restrictions on brand names AdWords auctions which has resulted in bidding wars.

Between April 2008 - when Google announced the removal of trademark restrictions to bid on brand terms in the UK - and April 2009, average cost per click on trademarked terms rose over 50%, according to agency Latitude.

Ryan Scott, search director at TwentySix, said: 'It will be a lot of hard work to protect brand integrity. Someone could try to shift old Cadbury's stock online. A major brand like Adidas will have to get in touch with all their retailers and affiliates to control their marketing messages.' Google conceded that there is 'always the possibility of underhand behaviour'.

Duncan Fisher, head of paid search at agency Latitude, said: 'Big brands will suffer the most because costs per click will be forced up. At the moment half of the online browsers might click on their own branded site but fewer will click through with this change.'

Martin McNulty of online marketing agency Trafficbroker said Google's decision to further relax the use of trademark terms within ad text in the US is clearly aimed at supporting legitimate resellers of trademarked products, but 'once again it's likely to send trademark owners into a whirl'.

'Google's rules don't appear to allow competitors to use rivals' trademark terms, but it's likely there will be numerous grey areas. To prevent abuse, companies will need ever more sophisticated systems to monitor their trademarks within search.'

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