Trademark dilution and infringement run rampant on Yahoo Search Marketing’s paid advertisements for federally protected trademarks.
While Yahoo and Google continue to battle through lawsuits for trademark infringement in their respective search engine advertising programs, it is evident that Yahoo needs to move a step closer to the brands they are leveraging for profit.
In 2005, Google was forced to change their trademark advertising policy after a devastating blow from a federal district court in the Geico Case. The court stated:
“…the district court found that the “extremely high” percentage of respondents who experienced some degree of confusion when viewing these advertisements was sufficient to show that there was a likelihood of confusion present when GEICO’s marks appeared in either the heading or the text of a Sponsored Link advertisement.
Google advised the district court that it had no contrary evidence. Thus, the district court held that GEICO had established a likelihood of confusion and had therefore shown that Google violated the Lanham Act with regard to those Sponsored Link advertisements that included GEICO’s marks in the headings or text.”
In order to avoid a highly public compensatory damages phase of the suit that could spread to many more companies getting involved, Google settled with Geico for an undisclosed amount. Google then updated it’s trademark policy to prohibit third parties from using the trademarks of other companies in the title or text of trademark-triggered ads (U.S. & Canada), at the request of the trademark holder.
While I don’t believe this goes far enough to protect a brand’s IP assets, it does remove a lot of the feculence that still resides on Yahoo.
Let me illustrate some examples for you. In the screenshot below we take a look at a search for “Best Buy” on Google. Best Buy is my go-to store for electronics and they often feature some great deals online, too.
As you can see, the trademark policy implemented on Google has eliminated the brand siphoners from advertising on this trademark (though this isn’t the case for every brand on Google). Gone are the brand parasites that once competed for visibilty on this trademarked search in Google.
Now let’s take a look at a search for “Best Buy” on Yahoo.
Note the Yahoo advertisements on the Best Buy trademark, attempting to steal brand traffic. While Best Buy does have an outlet store on eBay, I can assure you they do not enjoy eBay’s tactics.
At the very least, Yahoo needs to fall in line with Google to eliminate the use of another organization’s trademarks in the title and text of search engine advertisements. This move will improve relations with brands and help to ensure relevant results.
Technorati tags: Yahoo Search Marketing, Yahoo trademark policy