Google recently announced a shift in the current trademark policy contained in their US terms and conditions for their Google Adwords. This change caused quite a stir among the major brand players in the marketplace. Basically, Google decide it no longer wanted to play policeman and as such announced that from the 15th of June 2009 they will no longer police trademark usage. As long as the advertiser actually has the trademark on their website and is actually either selling the product or service, or providing unbiased information about the product or service related to the mark in question, the particular advertiser was entitled, in terms of Google’s policy, to use such trademark in their ad text, without requiring permission from the owner of the particular trademark.
…policy does not trump the law
Two things are important to note before collapsing in a heap of outrage:
- This policy does not trump the law. It merely absolves Google from having to police the issue of trademark ownership and permissions; and
- This is only a policy shift in the US. In SA, Google has never policed the use of trademarks. SA has always fallen under the legal auspices of Google Ireland and we subscribe to those terms and not the US terms. The policing of trademarks was always absent from the Irish terms, Google having the sense to realise that the effort and cost involved in policing multi-jurisdictional legal requirements for trademark usage was neither viable nor commercially sensible.