From a network quality perspective, trademark use is one of the most common complaints. There are many excellent blog posts already available on the topic, in particular: What's in a Brand Name? Using Trademarks and Copyrights in Your Advertising provides an informative overview of policy and best practice, from the perspective of an advertiser uploading their advertisements.
At the onset, please be advised that it is the advertiser’s responsibility to ensure that the use of keywords and ad content, including trademarks and logos, does not infringe or violate the intellectual property rights of others. If a trademark owner is concerned that their trademark is being used improperly in ad text, the owner should first contact the advertiser directly to address the issue. Please note, we do not act as mediators for IP dispute resolution purposes; for more information, please review our Intellectual property policies.
In this article, our aim is to examine the opposite side of the coin, namely situations in which another advertiser may bid on a different company’s brand terms, as well as a more in depth look at the differences in trademark policy in the European markets.
Differences in Trademark Policy in European Markets
Bing Ads trademark policy may differ depending on the market.
We will review complaints concerning advertisers who use brand terms belonging to third parties in the ad copy, taking into account what may constitute “fair use” of the brand terms (we will examine what “fair use” entails later in the article). This is enforced in all markets.
Here, Contoso Coffee Shop (an advertiser with Bing Ads) is using Fourth Coffee Shop’s brand term in the ad copy with no relevant content on the landing page and with a similar product offered. This behaviour is disallowed
Contoso Coffee Shop
Better than Fourth Coffee Shop
However, in some European markets, namely: Spain, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, we will not review requests concerning advertisers that may choose to bid on another company’s brand term e.g. Contoso Coffee Shop may bid on the keyword “Fourth Coffee Shop”.
This is also the case in markets like US and Canada (including the French language Canadian market).
Conversely, in France, Italy, Republic of Ireland and United Kingdom, we accept requests concerning advertisers who bid on other companies’ brand terms i.e. Contoso Coffee Shop bidding on “Fourth Coffee Shop”.
(The full country list: Australia, Brazil, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom)
What constitutes fair use?
On the face of it, the decisions surrounding trademark use in ad copy seem relatively routine, but there are many instances in which usage could constitute a legitimate use of a brand term in paid search advertising. The subsequent non-exhaustive examples highlight this:
- Use of a trademark by a reseller of authentic goods or services
Here, Contoso Phones, an authorised reseller of The Phone Company’s products, is bidding on their brand terms. This approach is compliant as The Phone Company products are available to buy on Contoso Phones’ website
Your premiere one-stop shop for phones and tablets, all providers. Sale on all The Phone Company products!
- Informational websites about goods or services, such as product reviews
Here, Contoso Food Finder is a website that offers non-commercial information (e.g. there are no purchase options). This site offers information about Fourth Coffee Shop that is helpful to users.
Contoso Food Finder
Fourth Coffee Shop – Cafés in your area
- Ordinary dictionary use of a term
Here, Contoso Windows is bidding on the term “windows”, with the ad referring to actual windows, and not the Microsoft product (brand) Windows.
Affordable window cleaners in your area
Similarly, Contoso Studios is bidding on the term “fine art”, the ad is referring to actual fine art, and not the brand term School of Fine Art
Fine art by respected local artists
- Comparative advertising
Here, the Contoso Insurance Compare site offers a service to users by providing helpful information. Claims made by this type of site would need to be supported by independent research to attest to their veracity.
Contoso Insurance Compare
Find the best insurance for you
So there you have it! If you have run through this check list and still believe that the usage of your brand terms in paid search advertising is in violation of our policies, you can escalate your complaint via the relevant Bing Ads intellectual property concern form.
Again, as a reminder we do not act as mediators for trademark or other IP disputes between advertisers. As a first step we encourage you to contact the other party to solve the issue directly with them.
I hope I’ve helped clarify when the use of trademark terms in ad copy and at keyword level is permitted. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Bing Ads Support or visit the Bing Ads forums.