Microsoft released an announcement today that as of March 3rd, 2011, they will no longer be making editorial investigations into “complaints about trademarks used as keywords to trigger ads on Bing & Yahoo! Search in the United States and Canada.” What this basically means is they are allowing anyone to bid on a trademarked term for PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, even if someone else owns the trademark on that term. They still, however, will investigate text within the ads (note their new “Investigations” policy).
This basically follows suit with what Google has already been doing – allowing the competitive purchasing of trademarked terms in the United States as PPC keywords, while not allowing the use of trademark terms within text ads (when deemed inappropriate). The U.S. is one of many regions where Google will not investigate keyword trademarked infringements, but ad text only (see full list here).
According to Microsoft’s new statement, they are only ceasing investigations to the U.S. and Canada on PPC trademark buying, but obviously they could expand their list of regions in the future also.
So what does Microsoft suggest you do if someone is buying your trademarked term, misrepresenting your brand, and stealing your customers? According to their new Intellectual Property Guidelines, “If there is concern that an advertiser may be using a trademark keyword inappropriately, the trademark owner should contact the advertiser directly.” So now the onus is on trademark owners to spend the time, effort, money and litigation to exert the government-granted right they paid for to protect a trademark. This is basically the same stance Google has been taking for a while now.
Of course, one can readily see why both Microsoft and Google don’t want to be the gatekeepers on PPC trademark rights – they want more advertising money. By opening the flood gates to allow illegal trademark purchasing, they can get a lot more competitors buying click terms. Pepsi can buy Coca Cola, and Ford can buy Nissan. It’s up to the trademark owners to battle it out in court.
If you’re a trademark attorney representing a major brand, you will now have to be ever more vigilant in policing the web for cases of trademark infringement. And if you’re an SMB out there trying to create a brand and protect a trademark on the search engines? It’s the wild west out there now, and anything goes unless you have the money to take every competitive PPC buyer to court.
It was recently reported that the state of Israel purchased the Twitter username @Israel from a private individual named Israel Meléndez for an undisclosed sum, which by some reports may be as much as six figures. You read that right – the Nation of Israel paid for a Twitter username from some guy that runs a porn site in Miami. He gave the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu his password, and then they handed him a check.
Since Twitter has a policy against name squatting and selling usernames, you have to wonder what Twitter thinks of this deal. Their policy states “attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension.” Israel Meléndez says they didn’t violate this clause because he was just relinquishing his own personal account, he didn’t create the account for the purposes of making a profit. Other reports state Twitter actually helped facilitate the sale, but Twitter hasn’t confirmed that.
At KnowEm we have clients inquiring every day about what they can do to get their company’s brand, trademark or username back if it has already been taken on a social network. We always advise them to use the proper channels and contact the website owner to ask about their policy in reclaiming names, which usually requires some lawyers to get involved. The truth is, however, that it can be a very difficult and time-consuming process. And as this story shows us, you might not get the outcome you want.
If the nation of Israel had to pay a six figure sum to reclaim their name on Twitter, what chance do you have of getting your branded username back if it’s already been taken? This is the primary reason a professional service like KnowEm is so valuable for brand and trademark owners who want to be proactive in Social Media. Think of it as brand insurance – no one can steal or squat on your name on the next big social network if you have already registered it.
Early adopters such as Continental Airlines, Yahoo, and Flickr have been using the service during an invitation-only beta to stake out their IP on more than 5,000 social sites around the world
KnowEm, the company working to help brands manage their identity across the social web, announced the public launch of a new Enterprise Dashboard designed to help brands protect their trademarks and intellectual property in the ever-changing social media landscape.
The dashboard gives social media and IP legal teams a centralized location to monitor and manage their social media identities. With just a few clicks a marketing manager or lawyer can see exactly where a certain trademark or name is secured, and where it’s still unclaimed and vulnerable. KnowEm takes the process a step farther by automatically securing names, even creating profiles, wherever needed.
KnowEm’s database contains over 5,000 social networks around the world — from Mexico Diario to the Netherlands’ Hyves — and is growing on a daily basis as new social sites emerge. As a result, businesses can be sure their trademarked terms are reserved and protected in global sites today and tomorrow.
The enterprise dashboard was previously available in a limited invitation-only beta, during which time KnowEm collaborated with key clients, including Continental Airlines, Yahoo, and Flickr. For example, Continental has been using the dashboard to protect their brand trademarks and reserve their profiles on emerging social networks.
“While Twitter and Facebook are obvious places to check your brand identity, globally much of the social web is unchartered territory. It’s critical that we control our trademarked terms and brand identities throughout each network,” said Lora O’Riordan, Social Media Manager at Continental Airlines. “KnowEm’s service has become an important part of our social media strategy, ensuring we protect our property and opening our eyes to new opportunities for consumer engagement.”
In addition, the new dashboard enables brands to stay on top of the buzz surrounding their brand and industry on the social web. KnowEm’s brand alert monitoring system tracks each mention of a brand name, username, or keyword across 5,000+ social networks. The service breaks down the data into meaningful charts, such as social mentions by network, author, or geographic location, and reports can be emailed on a weekly, daily, or almost hourly basis. As a result, businesses can better understand who’s talking about their brand, where, and when.
To date the KnowEm team has helped to reserve over 500,000 profiles and reported back to clients on over 60,000 issues of squatting and misrepresentation of a brand, username or trademarked term.