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Thread: Brand name hijacking with Google Ads

  1. #1
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Brand name hijacking with Google Ads

    I have a mate that just bought a valet parking company for King Shaka International Airport called We Park You Fly. The basic idea is given the high fees for the airport's on-site parking, providing valet parking off-site is a viable option. As a business it's been growing steadily for a while now.

    Said mate has just discovered that the keyword we park you fly has been targetted by a "competitor" on Google Adwords

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    It's an interesting case for a couple of reasons:

    1. My mate's business is registered as "We Park You Fly" with CIPC, so one would think the brand is protected intellectual property.

    2. Given the "competitor"'s pricing, they could be taking the booking, and then rebooking the details to my mate to actually fulfil the order.

    Anyone know what Google's position is on Adword adverts that target brand names?

    If my mate filed a complaint with the ASA, will they have authority over Google, or the website operator for that matter which seems to be a company in the UK?

    Any other thoughts on the topic, anyone?
    Last edited by Dave A; 21-Feb-12 at 07:37 AM. Reason: CIPRO to CIPC
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  2. #2
    Moderator IanF's Avatar
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    Dave,
    Would it be less of problem if the name wasn't in the ad.
    I use competitor names for adwords but don't include the name in the copy.
    Has he registered the name as a trademark?
    I would change the copy on the website so it says the original/originators of the concept, then have a tag line "often imitated, never equaled"
    Keep that theme going. Will be interesting what ASA rules. Searching in JHB I don't get the Ad.
    Only stress when you can change the outcome!

  3. #3
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Ian, I have no idea where the lines between legal and illegal, reasonable and unreasonable are in this exactly. Hence the questions. But I suspect having the name in the title of the ad might well be significant.

    In this instance I think a reasonable person might mistake the hijacking ad as representing the company being hijacked.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  4. #4
    Moderator IanF's Avatar
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    Have you tried querying this with Google, maybe they have a policy for this.
    Only stress when you can change the outcome!

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    Email problem BusNavig8's Avatar
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    If there were a Trademark, this would have been stopped right there. This actually is good news in a way. It means that the concept is worth something that someone actually thinks it is worth stealing - and it is theft. I would attempt to stop this in its tracks to send a strong message that you 1) are here to stay 2) have a good concept and 3) will keep a durable competitve advantage to keep your concept flying. Use negative publicity for positive advantage. Then get a trademark registered as fast as your little legs can take you. Register the Tag line, The logo and all your icons. We have 3 trademarks, which we have done ourselves. Ensure that your "Nice" code is right as this is extremely important in enforceing the trademark. Go to the right people for the Trademark as some tend to charge heaven and earth for it. Its time for NIKE...Do It NOW!

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    Email problem BusNavig8's Avatar
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    Whenever we register a website we register the .co.za and the .com and point the one to the other if possible. The .com on your website is held at godaddy. I would email them and ask them to sell it to me.

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    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Dave, bidding on competitor names happens to be common practice when it comes to Adwords campaigns. If your competitor is a well known brand, bidding on their name often brings cheap, targeted clicks. I forget Google's stance on it, but I'm pretty sure it's frowned upon. I don't think you would have much luck in terms of the ASA. You might have been better off if the "competitor" was in South Africa - in which case they could probably force them to stop those particular ads, or at least the use of the name in the ads.

    Your best bet would be to contact Google regarding the "misconduct" - submit proof that the name is Trademarked and you might get some luck that way.

    I'm not sure if the trademarked name is registered only in South Africa by the CIPC? If it's a South African trademark and a foreign competitor uses that name, is there not a chance they could have trademarked the same name over there?
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    The "competitor" has been contacted and withdrew the ad immediately (possibly why it didn't come up with Ian's search). The ad was placed without the competitor's knowledge, apparently

    So this particular instance is over (at least for now).

    Still begs the question, what is reasonable and what isn't when it comes to targetting competitor brand names and the like? So don't stop with the opinions.

    About as far as I've got is misrepresentation and/or deception certainly crosses the line to my way of thinking.
    But a "we do this" (which happens to be the same activity as the targetted brandname) might well be OK.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  9. #9
    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Glad to hear there was an easy resolution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    Still begs the question, what is reasonable and what isn't when it comes to targetting competitor brand names and the like? So don't stop with the opinions.

    About as far as I've got is misrepresentation and/or deception certainly crosses the line to my way of thinking.
    But a "we do this" (which happens to be the same activity as the targetted brandname) might well be OK.
    Hundred percent.

    I think a distinction needs to be made between bidding on names as keywords and Including names as ad copy/misrepresentation.

    I don't see any problem with bidding on competitor names. Google is inevitably going to penalise you in terms of your CPC anyway, because your landing page isn't going to be as relevant to the keyword, assuming the name doesn't directly include keywords to do with your page. (E.g. A company with the name "Web design studio")
    If a name does consist wholly or mostly of generic words/keywords, then you're probably never going to have a case against competitors bidding on that name anyway.

    As for using competitors names in your ad copy (again, exceptions apply as above) - a definite no no. That is plain misrepresentation and passing off as your competition. Here I'm sure you would have a case with the ASA.
    "The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear." - Socrates
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    Bronze Member Alan's Avatar
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    The mate Dave is talking about happens to be me, so lets take this a step further. The guy places a google ad with my name and when you hit the add it goes straight to a automated booking sheet, so the cutomer books and pays for the car thinking they are booking with me, but are infact booking and paying my opposition. I wont mention the confusion at the airport when collecting the cars, this surely constitutes theft and fraud. I have to question the ethics of a company that opperates in this mannor and am very tempted to name and shame.
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