Last week, Google's announcement caused quite a stir in the online marketing industry. This year, the current policies for reseller and information pages that are already in force in the English-speaking countries will be introduced worldwide.
As a result, the following change will come into effect for the German market: in future, reseller and information pages may advertise with brand names in advertising texts. Eight years after Google changed its trademark protection policy to approve the free use of trademarks as keywords, this represents yet another significant relaxation of trademark protection with far-reaching consequences for trademark owners.
It can be assumed that the attractiveness of brand bidding will increase noticeably as a result of the newly created option of integrating brand names into ad text. The consequences are obvious: in addition to the strain on the advertising budget through CPC increases, performance losses due to conversion reductions must be expected. However, in this context it is important to realise that the policies laid down by Google are only part of the regulations to be observed by advertisers.
In addition to Google's policy, the trademark and competition law of the respective country continues to apply without restriction.
This means that if Google does not recognise a need for action in the event of a conflict on the basis of the new policy,
the trademark owner still has the option of taking legal action of their own. After all, advertising using a brand is still not permitted if this brand is not in the product range.
In addition, a distinction must be made between products and services in this context. In the case of services, which also include overnight stays and travel, for example, trademarks may still not be used in ad text under German trademark law. An exception to this is only possible for services if the trademark owner has granted permission to use the trademark.
The relaxing of the policies is likely to lead to Google responding less frequently to trademark infringements reported by customers in future. This makes it all the more important for trademark owners to have independent professional support in order to expose and record trademark and competition infringements in search engines and to take appropriate measures to protect the trademark.
The Hamburg-based company AdPolice is a leading provider in this area. Daniel Karlović, CEO of AdPolice: "We see ourselves as a regulator in a market that gives search engines considerable power over use of brand names by wording their internal policies accordingly. However, when monitoring and ensuring trademark protection, we are clearly guided by the requirements of the trademark owners. If trademark or competition law is violated for a trademark, we identify this violation, record it and offer the customer individual recommendations for action. This includes communicating with the respective brand bidders. It is important to note that we act independently of the policies of the respective search engine – country-specific trademark and competition law is decisive for us." Daniel Karlović concludes: "Google is not the law; trademark protection is a company matter."