Friday, March 7, 2008

Comparative keyword ads OK in Utah



Last year, we told you about a law passed by the Utah state legislature that essentially prohibited search engines like Google from allowing trademarks from being used as keywords to trigger ads. As we wrote at the time, this law ran counter to the precedent of federal trademark law, which has consistently upheld comparative advertising as being good for consumers, competition and free speech.

So if a department store like Macy's wanted to advertise that they sell Nike shoes, under the Utah law they would not have been able to use the term 'Nike' to trigger an ad for their store. Or if Avis wanted to announce a sale, they couldn't use the keyword "Hertz" to trigger ads for people searching for rental cars.

Although the Utah law had not yet been enforced, it represented a big potential problem for consumers and advertisers alike. Consumers would have been prevented from seeing the kind of comparative ads that help them get the best deal possible. And businesses (including small businesses) would have been prevented from advertising products that they sell. For example, if Cole Sport in Park City wanted to advertise that they were running a huge end of season sale on K2 skis, the Utah law would have prohibited them from doing so.

The law also would have hurt free speech, with citizens being unable to run ads in protest of a certain company's business practices, for example.

Fortunately, the Utah legislature amended the bill this week and removed the provisions of the law which prohibited this type of keyword advertising. We applaud in particular Utah Sen. Dan Eastman, who led the efforts to make sure Utah continued to allow competition to thrive online.

4 comments:

Jeremy said...

It's nice to know I'm not breaking the law anymore..

You can't regulate the Internet at the state level - it just doesn't work.

Phil said...

As a ppc advertisers I am concerned by Google`s and other SE`s approaches to trademark policy.

Conversely to USA. The UK allows trademarked keywords to be protected in paid search.

As an advertisers who manages ppc campaigns for manufacturers & retailers in both UK & USA - I would like to see search keyword trademark protection adopted in USA, as it is has been in the UK.

I frequently see competitors bidding on our trademarked company name in the USA. This inflates the price of clicks, causes brand confusion for customers and infuriates the client.

Secondly, I would like to see trademarks expanded from exact match ...to... exact & phrase. So for example "sainsburys" is protected but "sainsburys food" is currently not.

Phil.

sales said...

RE: UK

Not any more Phil - :-)

These companies now have a level of accountability they need to live up to - no longer can they get away with sloppy marketing.

It's a major win for the people and a major loss for the fat pigs who've controlled the flow of communication. It's a new world, where people are going to get the truth and REAL capitalism can thrive.

jack said...

As we wrote at the time, this law ran counter to the precedent of federal trademark law, which has consistently upheld comparative.
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