Monday, February 19, 2007

Trademark trouble, by Even Aas-Eng

Google is back in court, this time to defend their advertisers right to buy other trademark keywords. Or to defend how they generate some of their revenue (it depends on who's looking)
This trial has been going on since 2004 and are hopefully drawing towards the end.
http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=197006579

I will start by coming clean, yes I have bought other companies trademarks. A lot of them! When I worked for a Norwegian airline we made a lot of money buying competitors trademarks. It was a fairly easy way to make a buck. A couple of months back one of our clients here at McCann raised a debate after buying Norwegian ski resorts, posting an ad for great skiing in Sweden.

But is this necessarily unethical? Google is not a catalog, when you search for a company or a brand you might end up on pages posting negative remarks about that company instead of the companies own site. Most people don't have a problem with that. And every time we go to a supermarket we have hundreds of competing brands on the same shelf. When you read a newspaper article about P&G there might be a Unilever ad on the same page and nobody cares. So from a theoretical point of view I would say that's its perfectly OK to have your ad appear when people search for other companies. After all its a free market, isn't it?

Well its not that simple either. Most people probably haven't made any conclusions about Google being a catalog or a search engine. They search and expect to get the correct answer. I am sure that many user still don't know that they are clicking on ads every time they visit one of those sponsored links. My point is that we as advertiser have a responsibility towards consumers to think this trough.

So my conclusion is that I haven't got one. What a useless blog post!

Even Aas-Eng

4 comments:

E. Christiansen said...

Buying other companies trademark is unethical and a dirty way of doing business. Nevertheless it is possible, and if you don't do it you loose out. The travel industry is known for including these kinds of tactics in their marketing strategy. You need to be on edge to prevent this from happening to your trademark, and many loose out because of their lack of knowledge and understanding of the possibilities out there. I get your point about Google not being a catalogue and it’s fairly easy to post find negative (instead of positive) remarks on you trademark, but can you compare that to buying trademarks? Should we not respect the registered TM? I've done the same as you, bought other copmpanies trademarks, both domains and ad words, I did it because no one stopped me, and to gain more profit for my company, but it doesn't mean that I'm a fan of the practice. Anyway, thanks for putting focus on the issue...

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