Brand Protection Online: Do(n’t) Google Ads Constitute Commercial Use Of A Trademark On Gripe Sites?

Brand Protection Online: Do(n’t) Google Ads Constitute Commercial Use Of A Trademark On Gripe Sites?

July 21, 2014 0 By Sophia

It is legal to register a trademarked domain and publish a website on the domain if it is non-commercial in nature–think review sites, gripe sites, fan sites. An example would be Walmartwatch.com, a Wal-Mart gripe site published by Five Stones and The Center for Community and Corporate Ethics.

But what happens when a gripe site publishes Google ads to generate revenue? How can this be considered non-commercial when the unauthorized party is leveraging the IP assets of another entity, in a disparaging way, to generate revenue? There’s a lot of gray here.

What constitutes commercial use? What doesn’t?

Let’s review an example. The screenshot below displays a search on Google for “University of Phoenix.” Note the highlighted gripe site, UOPSucks.com, ranking in the brand real estate of University of Phoenix.

university-of-phoenix-sucks.jpg

The screenshot below display the home page of the gripe site:

uop-sucks-com.jpg

How do I know the highlighted ads are Google ads? Below is a screenshot of the source code with the Google script highlighted.

uop-sucks-source-code.jpg

If common sense prevails, it won’t be legal to monetize a gripe site through ad revenue.

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