I don’t believe firms should have any trademark protection in advertising, online or offline, with the exception of cases where an advertiser attempts to mislead a consumer into thinking they’re visiting or doing business with one company when it’s actually another company.
But the use of trademarks to compare or contrast is obviously – to me – legitimate.
It is something that happens naturally in the world every day and cannot be stopped or protected. It can only be stopped and protected in a few un-natural segments of communication and commerce where lawyers can beat sanity into the ground.
The search engines have been one of these places, and trademark holders can file to prevent others from bidding on their brand terms or using these terms in ad copy. Many companies do this, and unfortunately when your competitors block, it’s semi-understandable why your company might block too just to keep the playing field level.
I understand why a company would want to prevent others from competing with them. It’s a nice fantasy.
I even think the search engines, of their own volition, should offer registered trademark holders guaranteed #1 position and some neato ‘certified-official’ icon for their PPC adverts. Just because it sort-of-sucks to have to pay insane prices for your own name. I get it.
But that doesn’t mean others should be stopped from buying the trademarked keyword or using it in their ads.
It’s called ‘free speach’ and if you can understand trademark law it shouldn’t be that hard for you to grasp. Not the technicality, the concept. Anyone can say anything if they’re not hurting anyone else. In this case, if you’re not misleading anyone, you should be able to speak.
So Google has a policy I don’t agree with. That’s their right. (And it’s not the only one).
But should using words in a non-misleading way be illegal? The folks at 1-800-Contacts think so.
That’s right. The same people who could only come up with entirely of generic words as a company name, think that the combination of these terms should be illegal for use as keywords or in advertisements of competitors.