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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Google updates AdWords policy

By Lawyer Sarah Lux

As of today, Google has a new policy on the 'invisible' use of trade marks as AdWords (keywords purchased by advertisers to trigger the display of advertisements in Google search results).

Google's approach around the world has been to allow competitors to use each others' trade marks as AdWords. Until yesterday, however, this general policy did not apply in Australia, where a trade mark owner could complain about and ultimately prevent the use of its registered mark as an AdWord by a competitor. From today, Google's general policy has been extended to Australia.

The changes to Google's policy mean that:
  • Google will no longer prevent the use by an advertiser of another person's registered trade mark as an AdWord; and
  • AdWords that had previously been restricted as a result of a trade mark complaint will no longer be restricted.

Today's policy change also applies in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil, which had similarly been carved out of Google's general policy regarding AdWords.

In all of these jurisdictions, Google will continue to investigate, and in some cases restrict, use of trade marks within the text of sponsored advertisements on Google, as distinct from the invisible keywords used to trigger the display of those advertisements.

Today's changes follow Google's recent High Court win against the ACCC, on which we reported in a recent Focus article. The High Court cleared Google from liability for misleading or deceptive conduct arising from the publication of certain sponsored advertisements. This led commentators to anticipate the lessening of intervention by Google in trade mark disputes, which has been reflected in today's policy change.

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