Can I bid on a competitor’s trade mark in Google AdWords?

Bidding on your rival’s trade mark as a keyword for Australian campaigns was, until now, banned by Google.  However, from 23 April 2013 Google will no longer remove ads using trade marked keywords, unless (and this is important) the trade mark appears in the text of the ad.

Why the change?

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This about-face brings Google’s position on this issue into line with the rest of the world, now that Google has been cleared by the High Court for allowing trademarked keywords in its campaigns back in 2005-8.  

But just because Google’s in the clear, does this mean you should go bid on a competitor’s brand name and redirect traffic to your site?  

Google will no longer remove ads using trade marked keywords

A few questions you might like to consider:

1.  Does the use of that branded keyword make your ad misleading or deceptive? 

Giving Google the all clear doesn’t prevent the law punishing advertisers for misleading or deceptive conduct.  While the courts recognise that we modern internet users are more savvy than the law used to recognise, if your campaign is found to be misleading or deceptive (or even likely to be) you’ll be the one facing the music, not Google.

Just to repeat, using a trade marked term in the ad text itself will still result in Google removing your ad, but you’ll also be risking trade mark infringement.

2.  Are you only fooling yourself?

Bidding on your competitor’s brand and stealing traffic is sneaky, but it ain’t rocket science.  Your competitors can see what your doing and return fire on your brand.  Think about what this does to your own Cost per Click (CPC) and potentially your Cost per Acquisition.

3.  How savvy are your users?

Most of us know the difference between the ads and organic results, yet not all of us.  If a user searches for a specific term like “Nike”, that user knows what they’re looking for.  If clicking the top sponsored result lands them on “Reebok” many would immediately click out, unless the ad sparks enough curiosity - would you be drawn in by this ad? (mock up only, thanks to Click Click Media)

Let’s wait and see

Time will tell whether the floodgates have re-opened to competitors bidding on each other’s brands.  But if monitoring your own search results is on your to-do list, today could be a great day to start.

This post was first published on Shoestring, authored by Lean Contracts.