Trademark and Copyright Guidelines for Pay per Click Marketing

You may be considering a trademark or copyright for your online marketing campaign. Before considering these, as a web marketer, you should know the difference between the two to know which applies to your ad.

  • Trademarks: A trademark can be a word, logo, phrase, or image that people or companies own to represent themselves or their businesses. Trademarks are owned at country level, so if you want to use a trademarked term to advertise in several countries, you have to get permission for each country. You can get this permission with the help of the search engine you’re trying to advertise with.

    See each search engine’s help center section on trademarks, which should outline that search engine’s process for receiving permission to use trademarked terms.

  • Copyrights: A copyright applies to material (such as a book, musical composition, or artwork) that belongs to its creator (such as the author, musician, or artist).

You need to know how to work with trademark and copyright issues if you’re a reseller of items (shoes, makeup, books, or CDs, for example), a parts or replacement parts seller, or an informative site (such as for product reviews).

If you fall under any of those three categories, you may use trademarked terms in your ad copy, provided that you use keywords in a descriptive or generic way (this means that you cannot claim to be the original site or trademark owner) in your ad copy and the landing page that searchers are brought to clearly sells the goods or services corresponding to those keywords.

For replacements parts, you must also have a landing page that clearly sells (or facilitates) the goods or services for that trademark. Informational sites must have informative details about the specific goods or services on the landing page for the corresponding keywords.

If none of those situations applies to you, you can’t use the names of the specific trademarks in your ads without permission. You can still bid on the trademarked terms as keywords, but the keyword can’t appear in your ads. If it does, the search engine could disapprove your ad or someone could even file a complaint against you.

This restriction works both ways, however. If you find an advertiser using your trademark in an ad improperly, you can file a complaint with the search engine. Often, the search engine will tell you to contact the advertiser directly first; the search engine may not mediate or participate in disputes such as this without the filed complaint.

If contacting the person or company that’s using your trademark isn’t successful, you should file the complaint online through the search engine’s help center. Filing a complaint forces the search engine to look into the issue further and shut down the offending advertiser’s ads.

If you have a copyright issue, the same procedure applies. Contact the advertiser directly and ask him or her to cease. Check the search engine’s help center for specific details on filing a copyright or trademark complaint.

When the complaint is on file with the search engine, someone there will look into the issue further and possibly stop the offending advertiser from using your copyright. The search engine will also add you to its ever-growing database of copyrights, and if any future violations occur, you’ll already have a history on file.

If you do have permission to use a trademark as a reseller from the trademark owner, have the owner “white-list” you when possible. This means that you are on file with the search engine as someone who has permission to use that trademark. That is something that you will need to work out with the trademark owner independently of the search engine.

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