Google Ads Trademark Infringement

Google Ads and Trademark Infringement: What You Need to Know

Amrusha Chati

Amrusha Chati

08 November 20234 min read

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Google Ads and Trademark Infringement

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    As a business owner in the digital age, Google Ads is one of the most powerful tools to boost your online presence. It's a platform where keywords and ad copy can make or break your marketing efforts. And if you already have trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), your efforts are clearly in the right direction!

    But what happens when a competitor uses your trademark in their Google Ads campaign? Is it considered trademark infringement? What can you do about it?

    We tell you how to navigate these tricky waters and what you need to know about Google Ads and trademark infringement.

    Trademark infringement in Google Ads

    Google Ads revolves around keywords and ad copy. It uses these keywords to place your ads in the relevant search engine results. When a potential customer clicks on the ad, they're directed to the ad's landing page. This helps drive sales and build brand recognition even within the crowded online world.

    A trademark is a crucial pillar of your brand. As a trademark owner, you have exclusive rights over your mark. Anyone's unauthorized use of it is considered trademark infringement, and you can take legal recourse for it. But with Google Ads, it's trickier.

    Usually, and according to Google Ads trademark policy, using a competitor's trademark as a keyword is not considered trademark infringement. This practice is seen as an integral part of the digital advertising landscape. It helps businesses vie for the attention of potential customers who search for specific terms.

    But, the line gets blurred when a competitor uses your trademark in their Google Ad campaign ad text or copy. This can cause confusion among consumers. It might lead them to believe your brand is associated with or endorsing the competitor's products or services. This is where the trademark infringement issue comes into play.

    Trademark owners have legal protection through federal registration. However, proving trademark infringement in such cases can be challenging.

    The trademark owner needs proof that the competitor's use of their trademark hurt their business directly. You'll need to show that using your trademark in the ad copy has caused confusion among consumers and, as a result, harmed your business.

    This can be challenging to prove. Consulting a trademark attorney with knowledge of local trademark laws might be your best course of action here.

    Can Google Ads be held liable?

    Now, let's switch our focus to Google Ads itself. Over the years, there have been attempts to hold Google liable for trademark infringement.

    But these efforts have been largely unsuccessful. Why? Because Google Ads is legally an advertising support platform and not a competitor or advertiser.

    Google Ads' primary function is to provide a space where advertisers can bid on keywords and display their ads to relevant audiences. So, Google can be seen as an intermediary, not an active participant in trademark infringement. Google's primary goal is to facilitate advertising. It doesn't endorse or encourage trademark infringement.

    But, it's crucial to note that Google may be liable if it knew about the infringement. This generally doesn't fall under vicarious liability. In other words, if Google is aware of a specific instance of trademark infringement and fails to take action, it could be held accountable.

    As a trademark owner, if you think a competitor is infringing on your trademark, you should consider making a trademark complaint to Google. The company will have to investigate it if you report it. 

    And the results could help you with your trademark complaint to the USPTO if you decide to file one.

    How can you protect your brand?

    As a business owner, there are several steps you can take to protect your brand and even minimize the risk of inadvertently infringing on others:

    1. Be Cautious with Keywords and Ad Copy In your Google Ads campaigns, be mindful of how you label your ads, bid on keywords, and reference competitor trademarks. Avoid using other trademarks in your ad copy to steer clear of potential infringement claims.
    2. Report Infringement to Google If you believe others are infringing on your trademark in their Google Ads, you can report the issue to Google through their complaint page. Google takes these trademark complaints seriously and may take action against infringing parties.
    3. Send a Cease and Desist Letter If a competitor is using your mark in their Google Ads campaign, you can send them a cease and desist letter. This legal document demands that they stop using your trademark in their advertising. Consult with a lawyer to ensure the letter is legally sound and can be used as evidence if necessary.

    It's always wise to consult with an attorney experienced in trademark law in trademark infringement cases. They can provide guidance, help you understand the legal intricacies, and assist in taking appropriate action to protect your brand.

    Trademark infringement in the realm of Google Ads is a nuanced and complex issue. To protect your brand, vigilance, reporting, and, if necessary, legal action are your best allies.

    If you have concerns about trademark infringement or are dealing with an infringement issue, don't hesitate to seek legal counsel. It can safeguard your brand's interests in the ever-competitive digital advertising landscape.


    How do you report trademark infringement in Google Ads?

    You must complete the Google Ads Trademark Complaint Form to report trademark infringement in Google Ads to the company. Ensure you answer all the questions as accurately as possible.

    What ads are not allowed on Google Ads?

    Google's policy says they "don't allow ads or destinations that deceive users by excluding relevant product information or providing misleading information about products, services, or businesses." Business owners and marketers could contact the company directly for more detailed information.

    How do you resolve trademark infringement?

    If you have a federally registered trademark, you can seek legal protection in the case of infringement. You can send the infringer a cease-and-desist letter. If that doesn't work, you can report the infringement to the USPTO, which will investigate the matter. In more extreme cases, you can file a lawsuit.

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    Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.