From 23rd April 2013, Google will no longer monitor or restrict keyword advertising following receipt of trademark complaints in Australia (as well as in New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil and Macau). This is a major policy revision and will significantly impact on trademark owners’ efforts to combat trademark misuse via internet advertising campaigns targeting the affected territories.

The announcement follows a recent decision of the High Court of Australia that Google was not responsible for the misleading use of the AdWords service by advertisers that paid Google to display their sponsored links in response to particular search terms.

Google has stated that the changes are intended to streamline Google’s AdWords trademark policies worldwide, to give internet users greater choice: “people searching for one brand of product should be able to easily find information about products from similar brands to make informed decisions.”

Companies will now be able to have advertisements displayed in Australia when a user searches for a competitor’s brand. For example, when a user searches for "Apple", the AdWords program may generate an advertisement for Microsoft.

Google will continue to monitor and potentially take action against advertisers that use trademarks within the text of their ads. However, for complaints received after 23rd April, no action will be taken to prevent advertisers from using the brand names of their competitors as keywords to trigger the display of their own paid advertisements in the affected territories. Further, all keyword restrictions enforced by Google following trademark complaints made before 23rd April will cease on that date.

In light of these changes, brand owners will now have to take action directly against rival traders to prevent unauthorised use of their trademarks as keywords to trigger Google ads in the affected territories. Trademark owners would therefore be well advised to review any past or pending complaints made to Google concerning keyword advertising, particularly where such complaints led to keyword restrictions.

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.  in the author field if locked - at bottom of article if unlocked.