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Google Ads Revises Trademark Policy Globally in June 2023

Google recently announced significant changes to its Google Ads trademark policy, including expanded protections and restrictions for trademarked terms used in ad copy and bids.

The revised policy aims to curb trademark misuse, misleading advertising practices, counterfeiting risks, and compliance issues. It went into effect globally starting June 2023.

In this post, we’ll cover in depth what has changed in Google’s trademark policy, motivations behind this important update, potential impacts for advertisers and brands, tips for compliance, and key takeaways on the evolving PPC landscape.

Table of Contents

Details of Google Ads’ New Trademark Policy
Motivations Behind Google’s Trademark Policy Update
Impacts on Advertisers and Brands
Best Practices for PPC Advertisers Under New Policy
Key Takeaways and Predictions

Details of Google Ads’ New Trademark Policy

The key aspects of the newly announced Google Ads trademark policy include:

Expanded Trademark Protections and Restrictions

Google will enact tighter controls and greater restrictions over the usage of trademarked terms across ad titles, copy, display URLs, and bids. Certain previously permitted generic and descriptive uses will now face increased scrutiny and disapprovals.

Essentially, Google has expanded its algorithms and rules to be more stringent in prohibiting uses of third-party trademarks deemed unnecessary or potentially misleading.

Any incorporation of trademarked terms belonging to other brands and companies in ad copy will need to be completely relevant and unambiguous to avoid policy violations.

Google’s updated standards prohibit any usage of third-party trademarks that is deemed excessive or potentially confusing.

Their algorithms and human reviewers will be looking for ads clearly trying to misappropriate brand recognition rather than earn it through relevant unique ad content.

New Prohibited Practices and Example Violations

Several additional categories of trademark violations have been added to the policy, along with examples of infringing ad creative. These include practices like:

  • Bidding on typos or misspellings of trademarked brands to target searchers making mistakes
  • Using other brands’ trademarks in ways that could imply a false authorized affiliation
  • Incorporating trademarks into ad text excessively in ways unrelated to legitimate comparative claims
  • Usage of trademarks on arbitrage sites without permission to wrongly imply official relationships
  • Bait-and-switch tactics wrongly leveraging brand terms initially to attract clickers
  • Making unsubstantiated claims of endorsement by incorporating third-party trademarks

Without clear and irrefutable contextual relevance, these types of misleading and manipulative creative tactics will trigger disapprovals and account suspensions per the newly updated trademark policy guidance.

Google has provided advertisers increased transparency through its Help Center into specific examples of trademark-violative practices that will be prohibited under this stricter enforcement regime.

Streamlined Reporting Process for Trademark Complaints

Brand owners will have access to a streamlined process directly within Google Ads to report possible trademark policy violations that appear in search results related to their brand names.

This expedited complaint filing mechanism aims to accelerate Google’s review of trademark disputes and resolution of confirmed offenders.

Rather than relying on inefficient indirect communication channels, brand owners can directly flag potentially infringing ads abusing their trademarks through an online form.

With streamlined intake of complaints, Google will be able to enforce its new stricter policies much more quickly.

Automated Reviewal Using Machine Learning Models

In addition to responding to brand owner complaints, Google will proactively leverage automated machine learning models to identify ads that may be infringing upon trademark policies before they even go live. This expands monitoring beyond just responding to manual reports of violations.

By using AI and natural language processing to screen ads submitted for approval, Google aims to dynamically flag suspect content that shows signals of attempting to misuse or misappropriate third-party brand terms.

Machines can screen a much higher volume of ads than human reviewers. This aims to catch policy-violating ads faster even at larger scales.

Response Protocol for Accused Advertisers

When advertisers are accused of trademark violations either by brands or by Google’s automated algorithms, the new response protocol requires them to provide specific justification for their usage of the trademarked terms in question within a relatively short 24 hour window to avoid suspension.

Previously, restrictions were lighter for unauthorized usage of trademarks through arbitrage sites or incorporating brands generically into ad text.

But now accused advertisers face stricter penalties. Failure to adequately justify trademark usage often results in temporary account suspensions. Google also explicitly reiterated in its policy announcement that it retains the prerogative to impose permanent bans for repeated egregious trademark violations.

Motivations Behind Google’s Trademark Policy Update

Google’s substantial revision of its Ads trademark policy seeks to accomplish several crucial objectives:

Reducing Litigation Risks and Complaints

By expanding and clarifying restrictions against improper use of third-party trademarks in ads, Google aims to significantly reduce litigation and legal complaint risks stemming from infringing ads running through Google Ads.

When brands feel their trademarks are being misused or diluted by competing advertisers on Google, it can spur costly lawsuits. Tighter policies help avoid this exposure.


Maintaining Trust and Brand Safety for Advertisers

Google wants to sustain trust and satisfaction among advertisers by ensuring brand terms and trademarks are not misappropriated in ways that undermine or dilute their brand equity and marketing investments. Keeping ads safe and compliant for brands aligns with Google’s incentives to maintain its advertising dominance.

Curbing Scams, Counterfeits and Misleading Usage of Brand Terms

By boosting oversight and enforcement, Google aims to curb instances of scammers, counterfeiters, and other fraudulent advertisers wrongfully abusing trademarks of legitimate brands.

These bad actors commonly seek to trick consumers through incorporating trademarks into ads in order to falsely imply an official affiliation or endorsement for their illegitimate products or services. The tightened policies counteract these risky violations.

Controlling Abuse Through Arbitrage and Misappropriation

Through expanding its advertising restrictions, Google seeks to cut down on manipulative compliance-circumventing tactics used by certain advertisers.

Such as unauthorized usage of trademarks to try generating arbitrage through competitor brand terms or purely aiming to profit from undeserved recognition of rival brands’ names rather than authentically earning presence through relevant differentiated offerings.

Complying with Evolving Global Regulations

As local regulations surrounding acceptable trademark usage, misleading advertising, unfair competition, and consumer protections continue to proliferate worldwide.

Google aims to take a proactive stance on conforming with these laws as they emerge by implementing even stricter proactive restrictions against usage of third-party marks that pushes boundaries.

Impacts on Advertisers and Brands

These extensive Google Ads policy changes stand to significantly impact advertisers and brands in several key ways:

Tighter Control Over Brand Term Bidding and Usage

For brand owners, the policy shifts grant them even greater ability to dictate how third parties can bid on and use their trademarked terms in ad copy.

Brands can request outright bans on usage of terms in many contexts. This expanded power over safeguarding trademarks will require some calibration by brands to strike the right balance between protection and reasonable fair use.

Limiting Generic, Descriptive and Derivative Usages in Ad Copy

Advertisers will need to be far more judicious and conservative about incorporating or referencing competitor brand names or trademarks generically in ad copy, display URLs, and even landing pages.

Uses that may have previously squeaked by will now face much higher scrutiny even if ostensibly just descriptive rather than an intentional misrepresentation.

Reduced Risk of Counterfeits or Misleading Ads Diluting Brand Equity

For legitimate brands, the stricter oversight and enforcement will make it substantially harder for counterfeiters, arbitrageurs, and other fraudulent misrepresentative advertisers to unduly benefit from trading off their brand equity and recognition through deceptive ads. This prevents dilution.

Clarity into Compliant Trademark Usage in PPC Context

The detailed policy guidelines and compliant usage examples provide advertisers increased clarity into permissible versus prohibited applications of incorporating third-party brand terms in the context of Google Ads accounts. This allows for self-auditing.

Streamlined Protections for Small Brands Lacking Resources

For relatively small brands and startups who lack extensive legal and compliance resources to monitor infringement risks, leveraging Google’s automated enforcement and centralized reporting provides efficient protections for their trademarks and brand terms at scale.

Best Practices for PPC Advertisers Under New Policy

Here are some proactive tips for advertisers using Google Ads to ensure continued compliance as Google’s trademark policies continue to evolve towards greater stringency:

Proactively Researching New Trademark Restrictions

Frequently check for recent trademark registrations or watch notices related to keywords being used or considered for integration into ad copy and bids to avoid violations. Research if brands escalate usage restrictions over time.

Minimizing Unnecessary Incorporation of Third-Party Brand Terms

In general, avoid incorporating competitor brand names or trademarks in ads generically without crystal clear contextual relevance to the offering. Seek differentiation with unique messaging rather than reliance on third-party brand recognition.

Seeking Explicit Approval/Permission Where Prudent

For any questionable incorporation of third-party trademarks in ads, get written permission directly from the brand owner as an added protective layer of explicit legal approval to avoid policy violation risks.

Proactive Self-Monitoring of Accounts for Compliance

Thoroughly self-audit Google Ads accounts with fresh eyes to identify any at-risk existing content that could attract violations under new policies. Don’t solely rely on Google to flag issues. Get ahead of problems.

Promptly Responding to Any Complaints Received

Swiftly investigate and rectify any ads flagged by Google’s monitoring or by brands directly through complaints. Provide clear compliance justifications to avoid temporary or permanent Google Ads suspensions.

Key Takeaways and Predictions

Google’s extensive trademark policy overhaul has some major key implications:

Expect Increased Advertiser Scrutiny and Restrictions by Google

Advertisers in all sectors should prepare for substantially increased ongoing monitoring and scrutiny by Google over trademark usage compliance given the policy expansions in restrictions. This will require adjustments.

Possible Advertising Declines in Heavily Trademarked Sectors

Certain verticals like fashion, luxury, automotive, and consumer products with extensive trademark registrations face risk of declining paid search opportunities and channel erosion as formerly acceptable descriptive uses of marks get eliminated.

Greater Imperative for Building First-Party Proprietary Search Presence

With amplified trademark hurdles on Google Ads, brands will increasingly need to proactively build and promote their own proprietary differentiating keywords and language in both content and technical SEO rather than piggybacking on third-party brand recognition.

Continued Policy Evolutions to Address Emerging Risks

As new forms of trademark misappropriation and brand-jacking inevitably emerge, expect Google to continue refining policies and restrictions to curb new risk exposures and associated legal pressures. Compliance will require vigilance.

In summary, Google’s substantially revamped trademark policy aims to limit various forms of trademark misuse, abuse and misleading conduct. But this will require advertisers across sectors to recalibrate strategies and walk an increasingly fine line to remain compliant. As regulations and risks surrounding trademarks continue escalating globally, savvy advertisers must stay adaptable and emphasize differentiation from competitors in both branding and messaging.

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