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The Trademark Police: Paid Search Tips for Trademark Owners and Resellers

As Q4 ramps up, complying with search engine editorial policies will be a crucial step in keeping your ads running. Both major engines assess trademark usage as a key part of their ad approval process. Through our experience, we’ve gathered some tips on how to protect your trademarked terms, as well as how to avoid ad disapprovals, if you are a reseller. Both Google and Bing allow advertisers to bid on a trademarked terms, but they monitor and restrict the use of them in ad copy.  A trademark cannot be used in the ad text or the display URL without permission, nor be dynamically inserted through keyword replace parameters.  Trademark owners can prevent the unauthorized usage of their terms by taking the steps below:
  • On Google, trademark owners are required to fill out the Trademark Complaint Form to stop the misuse of a trademark. The form also gives the option to list approved resellers which then will be allowed to use the trademarked term in ad copy.

Even if there are no advertisers on Google.com or Bing/Yahoo.com taking advantage of your trademarked term, it is a best practice to fill out the forms for both engines anyway. In some instances, competitors may be using your trademark on the search partner networks.

Protecting your trademarked term is fairly straightforward. However, for a reseller, it is more difficult to get disapproved ads re-approved. In many cases, ads that include a trademark get disapproved altogether or receive the “Approved Limited” status. On Google, “Approved Limited” ad status is granted for ads that may not show in all regions or on all the partner network sites. On Bing, it refers to ads that are undergoing additional review, or have been disapproved, in at least one market. There are several ways you can attempt to avoid ad disapprovals on Google:
  • The easiest way is to have the trademark owner or the reseller listed on the trademark complaint fill out the 3rd Party Authorization Request. However, in some cases, it may be difficult to find out who actually owns the trademark. We have found that Google account managers are an excellent resource to help in this search.
  • If obtaining permission from the trademark owner is not an option, there are a couple of other changes that can make the editorial process smoother:
    • Make sure the ad copy landing page clearly displays the trademarked term in question.
    • The trademarked term needs to be written in text, not in an image or in a link.
    • The action to purchase the trademarked product must be available on the landing page or within one click of the landing page.
    • The landing page must be primarily focused on the trademarked manufacturer.
    • There should not be any competitor trademarks on the landing page.
    • Use the ™ and ® symbols in ad copy exactly as they appear on the landing page.

On Bing, the best way to solve trademark issues is to work with your Bing team or the Bing Support Center. Making changes to disapproved ads in the Bing Ads online interface has been made more difficult in recent weeks. If a campaign has too many keywords or ads to be shown at once, you may have to go adgroup by adgroup looking for the disapproved keyword or ad in question. It may sometimes be possible to see ad disapprovals in the Bing Ads desktop tool, but this tool isn’t always entirely reliable. From our experience, ads get disapproved due to trademark policies less frequently on Yahoo/Bing than on Google.

On Google, it's important to note that trademark terms are generally not allowed in the display text of Sitelinks and oftentimes get disapproved. The trademark owner can submit the 3rd Party Authorization Request to request approval. However, the simplest way to ensure that your Sitelinks are active is to avoid using trademarked terms altogether in this extension.

In summary, the search engine trademark policies seem to favor the trademark owners and misuse is policed pretty thoroughly. Even for authorized resellers, the editorial process is a hassle, but navigating it effectively might just play an important role in our Q4 success. Do you have any other tips for dealing with disapproved keywords or ads? We’d love to hear them!
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