As of March 3, Bing and Yahoo will change their policy to allow the use of trademarked names as keywords in search ads. They say the change will bring their policy “in line with search industry practices” and some outlets say this is due to Google’s hard won victories in court over such matters.
Here’s the wording straight from Microsoft Advertising:
“As of March 3rd, Microsoft will cease editorial investigations into complaints about trademarks used as keywords to trigger ads on Bing & Yahoo! Search in the United States and Canada. If there is concern that an advertiser may be using a trademark keyword inappropriately, the trademark owner should contact the advertiser directly.”
What I find interesting about that paragraph is that it doesn’t say use of a trademark is okay, it says we won’t fight the battle for you if someone else uses your trademark. To further protect themselves they go on to say that third-party usage of a trademark will be allowed as long as it’s truthful and lawful. But then it says you can’t bid on a keyword if it infringes on another person’s trademark.
Isn’t that kind of like saying you can ride the horse but you can’t get on his back?
Probably the most important line in the whole document is this one:
“As a trademark owner, you are responsible for contacting an advertiser directly if you believe that your trademark is being used improperly.”
Obviously, the concern here is that competitors will use trademark terms in order to promote their own products. On the other hand, if you’re an online shoe store that sells Vans and Nike, doesn’t it make sense to use those as your keywords?
Google has been allowing the use of trademark names for search since 2004 so trademark owners should already be used to fighting this fight. The question is, will this change help Bing and Yahoo claim more of the search engine pie?