Yahoo! has won a legal case in the US which puts a different slant on brand and trademark infringement in PPC, but also goes to show the search engines have covered themselves against such cases.
As reported in media post, Yahoo has come out on top in a case brought against them by Heartbrand Beef, of Yoakum Texas. Heartbrand, who claim to be the only seller of Akaushi beef in the US, didn’t believe Yahoo! should allow their competitors to appear on the keyword “Akaushi” as it was misleading to their searchers and of the products their competitors provided. This would have been an interesting judgment had it gone the other way. It is different to other trademark disputes of past or present as it wasn’t actually a trademark or brand term owned by Heartbrand, just a product exclusive to them. I can’t honestly see how Heartbrand thought they were going to win this case but the result does go to show that the search engines are covering themselves for any such cases through their practices and T&Cs. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft aren’t stupid, they aren’t going to open themselves up for potential legal backlash through the changes they make to policies, they are going to be pretty sure they aren’t liable before making such as Google’s most recent changes to trademark bidding.
This is not the first time the search engines have come out in battles such as these, and it certainly isn’t the final say in the argument over brand and trademark infringement in paid search. But the more cases like this which come out in the search engines favour, the less chance there is of one going the other way, which in turn means less companies will be tempted to try their luck in the courts.
I predict in 12 months trademark and brand bidding in PPC will just be a common practice, give it 2 years and search engine marketers will be reminiscing about the good old days when there was no competition on brand terms and you got all the clicks for next to nothing.