December 10th, 2008.
After reading some interesting posts over at Holistic Search and Brand Republic, one of the largest florist chains worldwide is suing Marks & Spencers and Flowers Direct for using the Interflora brand name to trigger AdWords ads for their competitors.
Google updated their policy on brand name keywords and trademark terms that trigger competitorâ€™s adverts to display back in May. Previously, competitors could not bid on other brand names to display their ads, but since Google updated their policies on brand name keywords and trademarks, competitors in various industries have been using competition brand names to trigger their adverts.
It has been reported keywords include â€œInterfloraâ€, â€œIntafloraâ€ and â€œInter-floraâ€ which have been used to trigger the display of competitors adverts.
Interfloraâ€™s argument is that the actions of Marks & Spencers and Flowers Direct are a breach of trademark law, as marketing director Michael Barringer stated:
â€œThe Interflora brand is extremely valuable and we will not tolerate competitors taking advantage of it and infringing our right.â€
However, both M&S and Flowers Direct are abiding by the Google Terms of Service- no mention of the band is made within the advert itself and is now somewhat of a common practice across industries, as a spokeswoman for Marks & Spencers was quoted saying they are â€œextremely surprised by Interfloraâ€™s course of actionâ€ adding it was industry-wide practice and not unlawful.
Interestingly, there has been no mention of Interflora or any other company suing Google over the use of trademark terms in AdWords for allowing this to happen.
This is not the first report of companies suing over the use of their trademark terms on Google AdWords either, as Dominic Farnsworth (a partner at Lewis Silkin) commented:
“There are a lot of legal letters flying around in the background at the moment and many disputes are being resolved without the need for legal proceedingsâ€.
This poses an interesting situation for advertisers and search agencies- how long is it before competitors terms cause a lawsuit against your company or client, or how many more examples are needed before Google considers refining their policies? As Google have recently allowed the advertising of gambling and alcohol related sites, it appears they are expanding their policies to get even more from their advertising revenueâ€”could this be Googleâ€™s solution to the current economic downturn? Let us know your comments.