Aug 20, 2004
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I'm not sure why, but such is the nature of PR people that they almost never include clients' URLs in press releases or emailed story pitches. So I frequently go to search engines to find somebody's client's site, and see if we should write about them.
It's not always easy to find the link even then because so many marketers are buying paid ads against their competitors' names. So, there you are looking for Acme Company and five of Acme's direct competitors spring up to coat the results screen.
So I was extremely interested to hear about new study results from an outfit called NameProtect®.
This month, they analyzed the paid search ads that appeared on Yahoo! and Google against the trademark terms associated with America's top 100 brands (as ranked by Interbrand and BusinessWeek.)
- 92% of the top 100 brands' had third-party ads appeared in search results against their names.
- Of these paid search ads, 98% included the actual brand name in the ad. So the trademarked brand name was in the text of the third-party ad. (This is a critical factor in determining whether the sponsor is violating trademark rights.)
- 45% of the ads were for directly competitive and potentially unlicensed offerings. Others were for related offers.
- Just 7% of the paid ads were placed by the actual brand owner.
So, the big brands are currently not protecting their trademarks very aggressively in paid search. I guess big companies move more slowly than nimble competitors. However, I've heard the courts don't tend to look favorably on brands who have a history of leaving their trademark out defenseless and unprotected in the cold competitive world, even if it is the brave new world of search.
Time to call legal and get those cease-and-desist letters flowing!