Google Ads and trademark infringement
Today, as Google has become synonymous with the Internet itself, advertising on Google Ads has become a preferred tool for increasing sales. However, several legal aspects are obscured by the use of Google Ads as the main source of lead generation. Although there have been several lawsuits regarding Google Ads in the recent past alleging that it engages in monopolistic practices or discriminates against businesses, in a recent case Google Ads has been accused of being a vehicle for trademark infringement. by companies.
In the most recent incident, brands were found to be using illegal and anti-competitive practices on Google Ads in their fight to become the “most searched website” or attract the most users. It’s something that even the internet giant failed to resolve before the battle went to court.
It has been established over the years that brands should stay clear of competitors’ trademarks or other distinctive signs to avoid any form of legal action. Google Ads strictly prohibits the use of these marks by other companies as it may confuse the identification of the original source of business, thereby hindering the growth of competitors and allowing the advertiser to use the competitor’s brand and reputation for their own advantage.
Generally, in response to trademark complaints, Google Ads restricts the use of trademarks in ad copy. Only authorized resellers, news sites, related organizations and advertisers are permitted to use the marks, that too only if essential.
In fact, to ensure that the platform only promotes legitimate ads, Google provides that one can use Google’s own tool to submit trademark registrations, which further ensures that no one is authorized to copy the distinctive trademark of the owner, avoiding possible lawsuits and allegations of infringement.
The most recent example of such a problem is the MakeMyTrip vs. Booking.com trademark infringement case.
In this case, it was said that whenever a user searched for “MakeMyTrip” on Google, the first link to be displayed was to www.booking.com.
Upon review, it emerged that the latter was using the MakeMyTrip brand for its own Google Ad promotions. Due to MakeMyTrip’s prominent existence in the Indian travel booking space, Booking.com, a Dutch online travel agency , attempted to quickly and easily gain prominence in the country’s travel ecosystem.
As a result, a lawsuit has been filed under which Booking.com is now barred from using the “MakeMyTrip” trademark as a keyword in the Google Ads program until a further hearing. This not only puts monetary pressure on Booking.com to withdraw from the lawsuit, but also hurts the company’s reputation in the market. This case will certainly set a strong precedent and deter other companies from using the trademarks or brand names of their “more famous” counterparts to attract users’ attention.
Protecting your brand is only one aspect of protecting your brand from a Google Ads lawsuit. Given the volume of business transactions and purchases made on Google, Google has developed very strict advertising policies, covering four main areas, which, if not followed, can again be subject to action. in critical litigation: prohibited content (ranging from the sale of counterfeit products to illegal activities such as hacking devices), prohibited practices
1) Prohibited Content: Promoting the sale of counterfeit products to any product that may cause harm, harm, or injury to users is not permitted on Google. Google prohibits companies from advertising any type of dishonest or illegal activity, such as device hacking or inappropriate content that focuses on infringement, discrimination, etc. Google reserves the right to block or remove content or advertisements that contain what it deems to be “prohibited content”.
2) Prohibited practices: Google Ads does not allow the advertising of any content that abuses the advertising network, such as masking the final destination. If in any case the advertiser tries to obstruct the personal data of the user or actually tries to collect irresponsible data such as credit card information, sexual orientation, etc. in the content of its advertisements, it is liable to a fine for this.
3) Restricted content and functionality: This category covers content that can sometimes be considered sensitive. Using age filters, Google tries to provide a safe advertising experience for all users. Any content related to alcohol, sex, gambling, politics, health care and drugs, financial services and other restricted activities is reviewed multiple times before being allowed to be promoted in certain areas and groups only.
4) Editorial and Technical: Ads that are clear, relevant, readable, easy to interact with, and professional looking are the only ones that succeed. Any ad that does not meet the user’s destination criteria is also removed from the list. Google ensures that any user clicking on an ad has a specific destination to go to so they don’t get stuck in harm’s way.
As the famous saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”, Google has an enormous responsibility to protect the millions of transactions that pass through it daily. In the recent past, Google realized that it could be held responsible for the way its users advertise their products on the platform, even if they are only a “middle-man platform”. This realization has definitely created a massive impact on the scenario of online advertisements on Google, thus critically affecting the interests of users/customers as well as businesses.
It’s essential for advertisers to note that while Google Ads can be extremely resourceful in promoting your brand, failure to follow its policies can land you in months of court hearings and legal proceedings. Therefore, an informed and conscious decision would definitely be worth it before you consider investing capital in promoting your product.
(The author is managing partner, Verum Legal, a law firm)
June 05, 2022