June 21, 2023

Google Announces Changes to Google Ads Trademark Policy

Holland & Knight Alert
Thomas W. Brooke | Christian B. Hecht

Google recently announced a revision to its Google Ads Trademark policy that affects how the company will investigate trademark complaints going forward. Beginning on July 24, 2023, Google will accept and process trademark complaints against only specific advertisers and ads, rather than all advertisers in the trademark owner's industry. As Google transitions to the new policy, it will phase out trademark restrictions implemented prior to July 24, 2023, over the next 12 to 18 months.

The current process for reporting trademark infringement to Google requires a party to gather evidence of the infringement, contact the infringer and submit a complaint to Google. Importantly, having a registered trademark in the country where the ad is found can be of great benefit or be necessary in some cases to establishing exclusive rights to the mark.

First, a trademark holder should confirm that its mark is being infringed by evaluating whether a third-party use creates a likelihood for confusion among consumers, dilutes a trademark or in any way damages the holder's brand. Second, the holder should gather evidence of the infringement, such as screenshots of the infringing content. Third, the trademark holder should contact the infringing party by sending a cease-and-desist letter or asking it to remove the offending content.

Finally, if the infringing party fails to remove the infringing content or respond to the request, the trademark owner should file a complaint through the Google Complaint Center and select "Trademark Infringement" as the type of complaint. In filling out the complaint, the trademark holder should include all relevant information such as contact information, the trademark that has been infringed and evidence of the infringing content. Once submitted, Google will review the complaint and take action if it determines trademark infringement has occurred.

Practice Vigilance

In practice, the new policy will mean that trademark holders must be vigilant in monitoring for infringing content. Under the policy being phased out, Google would restrict unauthorized use among all advertisers in the same country and industry. Under the new policy, however, trademark holders must specifically identify each infringing ad or party. Though the standards for evaluating whether content is infringing do not appear to be affected by the new policy, trademark holders must now actively monitor their marks and timely report violations, rather than file a single industry-wide complaint. Brand holders should:

  1. register their marks in any country where its goods or services are sold
  2. monitor third-party activity carefully, either by regular checks or by hiring a watch service
  3. be prepared to take action through the Google Complaint Center

Holland & Knight's Intellectual Property Group can assist with all of these actions.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem, and it should not be substituted for legal advice, which relies on a specific factual analysis. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult the authors of this publication, your Holland & Knight representative or other competent legal counsel.

Related Insights