Earlier today I was forwarded an email by an industry colleague – the email was alerting me to a change in Google’s policy. Announced today Google will no longer monitor or restrict keywords for ads in response to trademark complaints – this business decision will effect China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil – and as Google states brings their approach to those countries inline with their approach to the rest of the world.
We are writing to inform you that we are revising our AdWords trademark policy. This revision may affect how we handle the trademark complaint you currently have on file with Google.
Beginning 23 April 2013, Google will no longer monitor or restrict keywords for ads in response to trademark complaints in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Brazil. This change will bring our procedure in line with our current approach to keywords in the rest of the world.
Please note that if your current complaint also concerned advertisers’ use of certain trademark terms in their ad text, we will continue to investigate and take appropriate action regarding those ads. Complaints received prior to 23 April 2013 will continue to be processed under the current procedure; however, any investigation of keywords in the affected regions completed prior to 23 April 2013 will no longer apply to keywords after that date.
To learn more about this trademark policy revision, visit https://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177578.
If you wish to update the parameters of your complaint because of this change, please visit our help center at http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2562124.
Google AdWords Legal Support Team
My initial thoughts regarding this move is that; the change appears to be out of line with advertising standards set across other mediums – I cannot mislead consumers on TV, radio or print using other business trademarks and their registered brands – so how can it be allowed on Google? With the policy change by Google – I can bid on a competitors trademarks and brands and divert traffic to my offering.
Google appear to be able to bend laws or avoid regulation when it suits the global search giant – we have previously written on Google and their global domination quest – moving from Search, into social, into eCommerce – and into any other industry they see fit such as travel, finance and maps. Of late Phil Leahy also expressed concern on Google’s lack of moral compass.
Some may react to this policy change that Google are going to gain more revenue – revenue from businesses who now need to bid on their registered terms, paid trademarks and brands – not to mention revenue from competitors of businesses who own the trademarks and registered brands. Google makes significant revenue from online advertising in fact 96% of its $50.18billion revenue is derived from advertising. Whilst the company may gain more revenue from the policy there are greater concerns than this change just being a money grab.
One of the issues with Google – is the public perception that the results presented by the search giant are fair and unbiased – that they are representative of the most relevant and applicable to my search query – however this is getting further from reality with ever business Google purchase and with every law and regulation Google avoid.
A search on Google will present results that will represent the businesses who are prepared to pay most for the terms, along with those investing in SEO and businesses who use product listing ads – the previous free Google Shopping. This potentially makes Google the playground of the rich – making it even harder for the small to medium seller to attract the attention. By making this change Google actually risk their prized search results even further bastardisation than exists now; the results that can be presented under the new ruling will be closer to SPAM and a deepest pockets basis rather than most relevant.
Businesses pay vast sums of money to trademark and register brands – and as online advertising spend is poised to go past traditional advertising spend – how can the giant player, the 96% online dominant player be allowed to flaunt laws on trademarks and SPAM – how can this be?
Google provides a number of services that are relevant to the everyday consumer through their maps, docs, Gmail and their mobile android offering – their purchases of businesses and patents has often meant the business walks a fine line of ethics in business. Presenting results of services or businesses Google own or have an interest in above those that may be more relevant has been an increasing practice in Europe and the USA – places where Google has also fronted and still in front of anti-competition tribunals. The results of Google are going to be more and more like an advertising board without the advertising laws and SPAM laws applying to it; and with Google giving preference to their own products. How can a search engine that has 96% of the online search market in Australia be allowed to conduct themselves in this manner – risking the livelihoods of small and medium businesses, making achievement of top rankings a place for only the wealthiest of brands, and undermining the trademark, businesses registration practices that all other advertising platforms must adhere to?