Dealing with trademarks infringements in Google Ads
We find ourselves in a world where most information can be found at just a click of a button. Unlike in the past where advertising was limited to methods like print and TV adverts, we are now in the age of digital paid media.
Designing the perfect name and logo for your brand can take a lot of effort, so the last thing you want is to discover that it's already been trademarked by another company. The same thing applies if you find that a competitor is infringing your trademark in their adverts. Action will need to be taken.
Trademarks can be many things but we mostly define them as a symbol, word or words that represent a company, product or organization (Like Nike's swoosh or Apple's "Think different"). When a company is trademarked it means that they are legally registered as the sole owner of the trademark. Anyone who uses that trademark for their own use is in violation of a trademark infringement.
Dealing with Google ads when dealing with trademarks can be very difficult, a nice simple example is the use of “Trustpilot2" in your ad copy when commuting reviews. However, the term Trustpilot is trademarked and therefore you cannot have this in the ad copy and to me it loses a little bit of something!
Trademarks have to be supplied to Google, please see the following link, but from experience, the process is hard, long and exhausting. Then you have to request trademark approval for the ad to include the term. Again if you are an authorised seller of HP laptops, but HP is trademarked.
Not to be confused with copyright - Trademarks are more specific, protecting things that identify the work of a brand or business. Copyright protects intellectual properties (ie. music, books, other visual & intellectual works, preventing others from replicating it unless they have permission. Trademarks, on the other hand, are there to stop other competitors from using your properties like logos & slogans.
What makes trademarks so important is that without them, anyone could use your created properties. Without them, there would be thousands of companies named Nike or Sony that may not even sell relevant products to the actual companies.
If you own an unregistered trademark & perhaps created an ad to promote your website, nothing is stopping a competitor from using those assets That's why you must trademark your companies properties to avoid this.
- Take legal action against anyone who infringes your trademark without your permission.
- Sell and license your brand to other companies.
- Use an ® symbol to warn others that your brand is registered as a trademark.
If you believe that someone has used your trademarks unfairly, committing a trademark infringement there are some factors that you need to assess.
Be sure to register your trademark - First, you'll need to check that your trademark qualifies. The process of registering a trademark can take around four months (Providing there are no objections). Unlike Copyrights that can last up to 70 years, trademarks last for 10 years, so you'll have to re-register when it expires. The registration process takes about 4 months if no one objects. Registered trademarks last 10 years.
For more information on registering trademarks visit GOV.UK's guide on applying to register a trademark.
There is also a range of software that can notify you of trademark infringements made against your company. They can also provide you with evidence of the infringement, which you can then send to the media provider to get the guilty parties' work removed.
Check to make sure it's an actual case of trademark infringement - Before you any take action it's best to assess as to whether the trademark infringement complies with trademark laws.
Registering a trademark in the UK only protects it within the UK - not in other countries. For example, say you own a bike company called 'Newcastle bikes', it's likely there's another bike company in Newcastle, Australia or U.S under the same name. In this case, it would be hard to prevent them from future use of that particular name.
If you are certain that another company is using your trademark without permission there are a few ways you can resolve the issue. If you can, it's a good idea to seek out advice from a trademark attorney as they're experts in trademark infringement laws. They will start by sending a cease-and-desist letter to the business guilty of infringement.
Although trademarks disputes are handled under civil law, Trading Standards Officers (With support from the police) can help you take criminal action regarding intellectual property theft of your trademark.
Regarding paid media, Google won't allow trademarks to be included in ad text unless the advertiser is a distributor of that same trademark. They have to be official sites, otherwise, Google can stop the ad's campaign.
On the flip side, you don't want to find yourself being the one guilty of infringing anyone else's trademarks. Similar to protecting a trademark from infringement there are ways to avoid violating an already registered trademark:
You can check to find out if a trademark is already registered by searching for a trademarks number, the owner & any keywords, phrases or images in use.
Fair use is the lawful act of reproducing someone else's work without needing it, avoiding infringement. You can claim fair use of a trademark just so long as you're using it:
- To do research or private study.
- To criticise, review or quote.
- Or to report on current events.
Remember - you have to have evidence to support your claim, otherwise you will be violating the trademark infringement laws.
Google has strict guidelines on what can be used in ads on display. Google won't allow advertisements that include names of trademarks for competitive purposes, or if it's unclear who the advertiser is & their relationship to the brand stated.
Google won't allow advertisements that include names of trademarks for competitive purposes, or if it's unclear who the advertiser is & their relationship to the brand stated.
- Use terms descriptively or generically.
- Are for a competing product or service.
- Sell products or services, spare parts or services or compatible products relevant to the trademark.
- For websites providing information about a brand's products & services.
If you are allowed to sell a trademarked product, for example, you run a sports shop that sells Adidas products. You can state in a google ad that you supply them, just as long as you don't use the ® symbol - only Adidas can.
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