Google Ads is an excellent platform for growing your business and getting your voice heard. However, it usually demands a lot of hard work and time invested. This is why it is truly disheartening to invest your hard-earned dollars, only to see someone else profit from your sweat. So what can be done when someone uses exact keywords for the very brand name you worked so hard to create? This article will show you how to preserve your digital reputation and stop these would-be poachers from taking advantage of your company’s trademark. Google takes Adwords trademark violation issues seriously. Each complaint that a trademark owner lodges concerning the use of their trademark is reviewed. Should a violation of their policy be found, they enforce restrictions.
Table of Contents
- What is a trademark violation and why you should submit it?
- How to submit a trademark infringement
- Final thoughts
What is a trademark violation and why you should submit it?
A trademark violation is an instance of an advertiser using a trademark or patented logo, slogan, or other marketing material from a brand without the proper permission and documented authorization.
You don’t have to be a Google Ads advertiser to submit a complaint, and there are many reasons why you shouldn’t allow the use of your intellectual property in your competitor’s ads:
- People searching for your brand might think that they have come to your website.
- Your competitors may run negative ads about your brand. Just imagine the damage a negative ad in the top spot of search results can cause to your reputation.
- It is your brand, so you should be in the top space of paid search results. Even if your competitors are using your brand name as a keyword, your ad will be more relevant, which means a higher quality score.
The accurate use of trademarks
While using someone else’s trademark in your ad text is generally forbidden, there are a few exceptions to this rule:
- Resellers – Resellers are allowed to use trademarks in ad copy if the ad’s landing page has the primary goal of selling products or services directly aligned with the trademark. This means that the ad copy must be relevant to the trademark. This way, advertisers are prevented from using a reputable name to drive traffic to a page about an unrelated product or service.
- Informational sites – Informational sites can use trademarks in ad copy only if the primary purpose of the landing page patches the site’s purpose – to inform. However, the reseller and informational site policy forbid these examples: Ads associated with firms that compete against each other. Ads that have landing pages that ask for user’s information before they display commercial information.
- Ads without a clear purpose to distinguish whether the advertiser is associated with reselling or informational sites.
- Ad extensions – For specific ad extensions and formats, you are allowed to use trademarks if you are providing additional information about the products or services you are advertising.
Trademarks as keywords
Trademarks can be used as keywords without any limitations. This can be frustrating to businesses competing for rankings with other companies who are also bidding on their brand.
Low-density volume keywords
On the other hand, ads that use low-density volume keywords do not comply with Google Ads trademark policy.
Trademarks in display URL
Although Google Ads can disapprove of the use of trademarks in ad copy, you are free to use it in an ad’s display URL.
If a brand files a complaint about an expanded text ad, Google may restrict the use of the trademark in the display URL, but the ad itself may not be disapproved. It may still show on the display or search network. Instead of being disapproved, no subdomains will appear in the display URL.
3rd Party Authorization Requests
If you need the authorization to use trademarked terms on the owner’s behalf or authorize an agency to use your trademark, the trademark owner needs to submit a 3rd Party Authorization Request, which requires 5 to 7 business days to complete.
Otherwise, everyone is susceptible to trademark infringement by competing advertisers. To request authorization, you first need to identify the person or company that owns the rights to the trademark. If you don’t know and have no means of finding out who owns the trademark, you need to fill out the Google Ads authorization form. Once there, check No to indicate that you are not the designated trademark owner.
After that, you need to add the necessary details as requested in the form and proceed to submission.
Upon form submission, Google will conduct research to locate the information of the owner of the trademark in question. However, you may still have to reach out to existing business contacts or conduct your own research in order to gauge appropriate info.
Landing page content
The method of determining trademark policy compliance must be shown in the form of text on your landing page. In case you choose to provide that info in the form of various visual formats such as Flash, videos, or imagery, it may be disapproved without consideration.
Trademarks in European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) regions
If you aim to target EU and EFTA regions, bear in mind that the conventional policies set by Google Ads apply without any outliers. These ads can use trademarks as keywords if the combination of keywords and ad is simple and easy to read. Here are some of the use cases:
- Ads that use synonymous terms instead of explicitly mentioning the trademark
- Ads attempted to advertise the sale of products and services, replacement parts as well as compatible products and services that correspond to the trademark
- Ads leading to landing pages that contain information related directly to the trademark
- Certain ad extensions and formats: Ads referring to the trademark in an attempt to provide additional info about the products or services that are advertised
How to submit a trademark infringement
To submit a potential Google Adwords trademark violation, you must have a registered trademark in the country where you find it misused. If you don’t have a registered trademark, Google will accept claims for rights of exclusive use for well-known brands that may not be registered yet. This concept of “active” rights only applies in countries whose legal systems derive from common law. If you don’t have the trademark information for the country in question, most places will have a database where you can search for the appropriate registration numbers. If you are filing a complaint in the United States, you can visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online database.
Here are some of the websites you can visit to search for your trademark:
- Global Trademark Search Site, TMView
- US Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office
- European Union Intellectual Property Office
- IP Australian Trademark Search
Once you have found the ad that uses your trademark, and you have your trademark registration information, you can submit a complaint to Google by filling out the submission form. On the first page of the form, you will be asked to enter your name and information about your company. In case you are not the trademark owner, you will need to specify the owner as well. In that case, the owner will need to send a message to Google, saying they permit you to submit a complaint.
On the next page, you need to enter the registration information for your trademark. If your trademark is not registered, you need to note that in the form.
The next step is entering the ad details of the infringement you wish to report. You need to select the scope of complaints. This is where you specify whether your complaint applies to specific advertisers or all advertisers. You also need to specify those advertisers you have authorized to use your branded terms. At the bottom of the page, you enter the details of the ad you are submitting.
If you submit a complaint against specific advertisers, Google will review advertisements included in the submission and remove those that violate their trademark policy.
If you submit a complaint against all advertisers, Google will limit the non-authorized use of the trademark in the country and industry in which the trademark is registered.
This is where you need to practice caution. If you fail to submit a complete list of authorized advertisers with Google Ads customer IDs, the advertisements of your partners using your trademark may be removed as well. You must also include your Google Ads ID so that your ads would not be removed. This is why it is better to select a scope of complaints against specific advertisers to avoid unintended removals.
If you can produce a full list of authorized Google Ads IDs, you can select a scope of complaints against all advertisers. Remember that you will need to regularly update this list as you start working with new advertisers and discontinue your work with others.
On the next page, you can enter any clarifications about your complaint. While this step is optional, you will need to check the boxes at the bottom of the page.
On the last page, you can review all the information you have entered. Once you have done that, select Submit to complete the submission.
Once you have submitted your complaint, you will receive an email to reaffirm your submission.
It will take from one to 8 weeks for Google to respond regardless of whether they decide to take action against the advertisers you named or not.
Trademark policy approval statuses
- Ads that Google marks as “Approved” correspond with Google Ads policies, including trademark policies, and may continue to run in specific regions
- Ads that Google marks as “Disapproved” don’t correspond to Google Ads policies, including trademark policies, so the platform running these ads won’t be allowed to continue doing so in specific regions
Ads that Google marks as “Approved (limited)” will only be allowed to run in certain target regions or won’t be currently available since they don’t correspond with the reseller and informational website policy
What about misspellings?
If the name of your trademark is misspelled, but it is evident that someone is trying to use your brand, you should file a Google Adwords trademark violation complaint. One of the most common misspelling practices is adding or subtracting spaces to a brand name, and Google’s trademark policy still protects this.
Your trademark is your intellectual property, and no one should be allowed to use it without your explicit consent. Luckily, Google has mechanisms to prevent this kind of abuse. Should you ever come across an ad that uses your brand name as a means of promotion, you should submit a Google Adwords trademark violation complaint and put an end to their fraudulent use. While healthy competition is the cornerstone of commerce, you worked hard to establish your brand’s reputation. Why let others rob you of the rewards? By judicious use of the aforementioned legal means, you can keep your intellectual property secure like we do at our PPC agency in Chicago, by putting an end to any competitors looking for a free ride on your brand’s coattails.