By now most search engine professionals should already be familiar with the new Utah legislation preventing advertisers from bidding on competitors’ trademarks as keywords. To this point search engines, such as Google, have stayed out of the battle between Trademark owner and advertiser for the most part.
Accordingly, Google encourages trademark owners to resolve their disputes directly with the advertiser, particularly because the advertiser may have similar ads on other sites. However, as a courtesy to trademark owners, Google is willing to perform a limited investigation of reasonable complaints.
– Google AdWords Learning Center
Trademark owners who wish to be protected by this new law will be required to subscribe to a new database housing the new type of “mark”, called an electronic registration mark. This subscription could cost up to $250 annually, being paid directly to The State of Utah. Many will not be able to overlook the direct fiscal interest of Utah. This database will be accessed by the search engine every time a search is queried, before delivering the SERP.
In my humble opinion, the law has its place protecting the intellectual properties of Trademark owners. Now for “the one bad news”. Search providers’ systems aren’t able to identify the absolute location of the searcher. In some cases they can determine approximate location based on the IP address, but the fact is that many other factors come into play and exact user location is any thing but. Furthermore, if the engines could determine the location of the searcher, there are several processes that would have to take place before the SERP could be served.
Besides the system problems search engines will have while being selective with ad serving, some feel Federal law has already established Trademark policy for keywords and meta tags.
Google and the others will no doubt be defending their ad revenues from a similar angle. Advertisers need to feel confident that Trademark owners won’t be able to come directly after them in court. Without that secure feeling needed by advertisers, Google will no doubt feel the pain from an ad revenue decrease if advertisers don’t feel confident. Given Google’s court record, they won’t be forgoing any revenue stream with out a battle.
Search marketers who choose to bid using such shady terms, will no doubt fight till the end. Trademarked keywords are profitable, and highly so, otherwise this wouldn’t be such a large problem. Until a firm Federal law is passed, I don’t see the use of Trademarked search terms slowing anytime soon.
Stay tuned, as this is just the beginning. I’m sure.