Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads
While it has been generally held that Pay-Per-Click Ads (“PPC Ads”), such as delivered on ad networks like Google, Bing, and elsewhere, may be legally allowed to be targeted to appear when consumers search for one’s competitor’s trademarked names, it is also acknowledged taht one may generally not display a competitor’s marks in the text copy of the advertisements. Despite the search engines and major ad networks attempting to discourage trademark infringement, it still can occur in many situations.
Trademarks can sometimes still be displayed in ad copy, and advertisers sometimes step too close to the edge when attempting to have ads appear when consumers are searching for their competitors.
A few examples of how trademark infringement can occur in PPC ads:
In Displayed Ad Copy Text
While search engines and ad networks may have systems in place to keep this from happening, sometimes infringement eludes the barriers. In some cases, very skilled infringers may be able to ad zero-width characters to break up the letters of trademark words, making it so automatic detection fails to recognize them, while human users see the trademark clearly appearing in ad copy. In yet other cases, closely-similar character sequences may resemble trademark words, or ad copy may imitate the trade dress of a competitor.
In Domain Names Appearing In PPC Ads
Consumers often gravitate towards clicking on ads and links for official websites of providers of goods and services, so crafty advertisers sometimes set up infringing domain names in order to appear official in pay-per-click advertising. Domains could be directly infringing, or they may be set up as various types of look-alike domains.
Trademark Keyword Targeting Might Yet Be Infringement!
While keyword targeting of a competitor’s trademark name or service mark may be allowable in general, if it is done in combination with other instances of trademark infringement, it could be deemed as a part of the overall infringing campaign efforts, or as yet further indication of a motive to infringe and unfairly appear for searches for a tradmarked name.
PPC Ads May Appear OK, While Landing Pages Infringe
Perhaps the most subtle form of PPC advertisement infringement might be when ads targeted to appear for your name all look just fine at a glance, but when consumers click through, the landing pages themselves could display infringing marks, or they could closely imitate marketing text language, colors and layouts from a company’s official website in order to trick consumers into believing that they are purchasing products from an official brand provider.
In such instances, it’s also possible for the advertiser to redirect the user upon click-through on the ad, so that they land on a domain name that impersonates an official website.
Infringing PPC Ad Campaigns May Be Difficult To Detect
- Pay-Per-Click ads only appear intermittently, so it is possible for an extensive infringement campaign to be conducted under your very nose without you noticing.
- Crafty advertisers may set up an infringing PPC advertising campaign, and geographically target the ads to appear everywhere except in the city or ZIP code area where your company headquarters is located, in order to elude detection.
- Advertisers might redirect all consumers who click through on their ads, except for users with IP addresses near a company’s headquarters.
- When checking up on your competitors from your offices, you may be seeing something entirely different from what most consumers are seeing.
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