Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Voice Of The Trademark Grows Louder

From Brands threaten legal action as fear of search abuse grows.

This battle between brands and search engines is picking up steam as evidenced by the stories noting it daily now.

The UK search marketing industry may face a wave of trademark infringement cases as advertisers concerns about unethical behaviour on pay-per-click networks grow.

Hey Microsoft, do you want to know how to beat Google? .

Although networks such as Google, Overture and Espotting provide guidelines, there's currently no law that prevents companies from bidding on rival brand names.

As spend in search continues to rocket, brands are moving to protect themselves - as witnessed by recent news that top UK travel operators including Thomas Cook are taking steps to ban third parties from bidding on their brand names. Recent research by DoubleClick revealed that almost a fifth (18.1%) of Web searches are for specific brand names.

"We see this as a serious issue and have asked Google to stop companies that don't have any legitimate rights to use any of our brands from bidding on them," said Andrew Doe, head of ecommerce at Thomas Cook. "If it's not resolved, then we may have to take it a step further."

Google was unavailable to comment.

Research by new media design consultancy Nucleus, which specialises in the travel sector, reveals that over 50% of travel operators are victim to other firms bidding on their brand names.

The survey, to be published next week, used a sample of 158 tour operators. It reveals that in many cases companies are bidding on brand names but don't actually sell products for that brand.

It's not just the travel industry that's affected. Rhys Williams, associate director at MediaCom, said he's also seeing unethical behaviour in financial and other sectors, particularly where affiliates are concerned. He wants search companies to better police their networks.
"We have a number of clients that are starting to consult lawyers to get a view on what their legal position is," he said.

Karen Salomon, UK marketing and small business director at Overture, said, "We listen to people's concerns and can see why it's frustrating, but we're not in a position to monitor brands.

Search engines, there's a simple solution .

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