Court OKs Narrow Use of Competitor Trademarks in Search Ads & Meta Tags

A U.S. District Court has ruled that the use of keyword-triggered ads and keyword metatags using trademarked terms cannot confuse consumers if the resulting ads/search results don’t display a competitor’s trademarks. This is a narrow ruling and doesn’t give search marketers carte-blanche to use trademarked terms. Rather, it means it’s OK to bid on a trademarked search term that triggers an ad that does not contain the trademark. Similarly, it’s OK to use trademarks in meta tags, as long as the trademarks don’t show up on search result pages.

Eric Goldman over at the Technology and Marketing blog has more details on the case and the ruling in his post Keyword Ads and Metatags Don’t Confuse Consumers–J.G. Wentworth v. Settlement Funding.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Legal: Trademarks


About The Author: (@CJSherman) is a Founding Editor of and President of Searchwise LLC, a Boulder Colorado based Web consulting firm. He also programs and co-chairs the Search Marketing Expo - SMX conference series.

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  • Dio Bach

    This is encouraging news, but I think there’s still a lot of grey fudge around the issue. Does this mean Google AdWords will now free up all that lovely inventory it’s sitting on due to the trademark issue? We can but hope.

    I can’t see it happening though until the law is clarified and tested a bit further. It’s a step in the right direction though. :)

  • Ian McAnerin

    Remember that this is a US ruling, not an international one. This is very much in line with current US and Canadian attitudes of fair dealing with trademarks, but very much at odds with the French and other jurisdictions.

    But if you are restricting your geo-targeting to the US, then this is good news.


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