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Google Testing “Evil Ads” that Appear to Violate Trademarks

It’s been over a year since Google decided to open up a can of worms, with a change to its stance on trademark use on AdWords.

Well, it appears the search engine is not only willing to open the can of worms, but it’s also willing to throw them about the place and see what kind of a stink it can create.

Exhibit A? Google is actively testing a new AdWords experiment that shows related AdWords ads, even if the ad is a direct trademarked competitor.

Take a look at this screenshot from Search Engine Rountable:

OK, hands up if your first reaction was WTF? That’s “what the fudge?” around here! ;-)

The ads are already being dubbed “evil ads” because they’re shown even if the advertiser didn’t intentionally target another’s trademark. This is seriously going to open up a flood of new lawsuits–legitimate or not–if Google decides this should be more than just an experiment.

What do you think of the ads?

  • MasterShephe

    What would make these evil?

    “Oh nooo, Google is offering users relevant content! How awful!”

    I mean…If I search for Barrats Shoes, then Barrats is still going to come up first in the organic listing. And, thanks to Google not being a botched system, Barrats will probably be at the top of the listings for the PPC because it’s the most relevant content. But it only seems fair to advertise relevant content.

    And you may say–”oh well yes, but advertisers should hate this because it encroaches on their hard-earned real-estate. But, advertisers should be THANKING Google for making their organic and PPC search all the more relevant.

    And of course, users should be psyched that they’re receiving more relevant content which means that users will be MORE likely to use Google AND more likely to actually spend more than .71 seconds looking at the sponsored area. That being the case, advertisers are getting a double-whammy of a beneficial Google-juice.

    Thanks Google-juice.

  • Richard Barrington

    It’s not clear how these ads violate trademark laws. They aren’t using the competitor’s name as their own, they are just being linked to firms with similar product offerings. This is especially clear-cut in the example shown, where one of the search terms — “shoes” — is completely generic and thus should appropriately trigger results from a variety of shoe stores/manufacturers.

    Am I missing something? Do you see a legal basis for saying this approach violates trademarks?

    • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

      Whether there is a legal basis or not, that is something I’m sure at least one advertiser will be willing to test in a court. ;-)

      • http://www.rarunkumar.spaces.live.com Arun Kumar

        @Richard: The example shown here may not be typical. Please try XSteel – a software from Tekla. The first sponsored result will be BoCAD which is a competitor. And XSteel is a registered trademark.
        This may not be illegal. But this is definitely not very ethical. Someone works like hell to create a brand and then someone else uses it to position his own product does not sound like what the creator would like.

  • http://eseotips.com Eseotips

    It’s not clear how these ads violate trademark laws . I think that

  • wilner

    Perhaps it’s time to stop using Google. Seriously.

  • http://www.websiteoutlook.com/www.seop.com SEOP.com

    Haven’t they been doing that for a long time now? That is one of the disadvantages of using PPC with Google.