Big Changes: Adcenter Trademark Policy Updated

2 Comments Written on February 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Microsoft Adcenter

Image Credit: dropped a big piece of news last week: they’re bringing their trademark use policies closer to Google’s.  In the past Microsoft had a similar policy to Google, but when they took over PPC for Yahoo they adopted Yahoo’s archaic trademark editorial policies.

As of March 3rd, Microsoft Adcenter will once again allow bidding on trademarked terms and use of competitors’ trademarks in your ad text under certain circumstances:

Use of a competitor’s trademark in ads only may be allowed if its use is truthful and lawful, for example, if:

  • Your ad compares your own product’s attributes to those of your competitor’s product, as represented by independent, third-party research. However, you must also do the following:
    • Present the trademark in the context of the research that is cited in the ad.
    • Feature the related research clearly and prominently on the landing page that your ad links to.

When Microsoft changed to Yahoo’s old trademark policies as part of the Search Alliance rollout, they automatically disapproved most, if not all, advertiser keywords that were determined to be trademarks.  I seriously doubt that if you just left these keywords and ads in your Adcenter account  that they’ll just magically go back through and retroactively approve them all on March 3rd.

My recommendation would be to delete all of your old, disapproved ads and keywords and recreate them after March 3rd.  Of course, there’s likely to be a bit of inconsistency when that date rolls around, so it may take some adding, disapprovals, deleting and reloading if you start right away on or near that date.

This brings back to mind a tip I share in our PPC training modules: Keyword or ad disapprovals in Adcenter are often best handled by just deleting the disapproved item and reloading it.  I’ve seen scenarios where doing this as often as 4 times on the same item with get the 5th attempt through permanently.

The ‘delete and reload’ method is annoying to be sure, but at least you don’t have to do something even more annoying to resolve it:  Submit a question to Adcenter support staff (not a fun experience, trust me).

In our members’ community  I’ve posted a number of strategies for competitive trademark bidding, but here’s a couple quick points to keep in mind for Adwords in particular:

  • The trademark will almost always be auto-blocked in ad text if the TM owner has complained to Google or Microsoft directly via their online complaint process.  No complaint from the TM owner? No auto-block when uploading new ads containing the term.
  • The TM claims are country-by-country.  The TM owner must apply for and prove grounds for an automatic TM block in ad text for each country individually.  Basically, they need to have the TM registered in every country they want to block ads from showing in.  If they have a US-only TM, they can’t block ad text containing the TM in Canada et al…
  • Recognizing this, advertisers can create individual campaigns targeting one or more countries where the TM owner hasn’t registered a TM. In some cases where you have countries mixed together in a campaign that have some countries where a TM is restricted I’ve seen Google put a “limited” flag next to an approved text ad indicating they won’t show it in every country targeted in that campaign.
  • Although I’ve seen claims otherwise, it’s perfectly easy to get good Quality Scores on Adwords for a competitor’s trademark, CTR is king, and if users find your ad click-w0rthy, you’ll be fine QS-wise.

Here’s a list of the trademark registration and search sites from various prime PPC markets if you want to find out if a particular TM is registered in a given country:

If you’re interested in internal Google’s thinking on fair trademark usage with Adwords, be sure and read this fantastic interview with Terri Chen, Google’s Chief Trademark Counsel.  Josh Dreller did a great job of asking the tough questions and pinning Google down on specifics.  Josh’s post didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time.

>> Subscribe to our blog posts via email to get more great posts like this one!

2 comments “Big Changes: Adcenter Trademark Policy Updated”

Great article Geordie, thanks.

You can actually search all European trademarks (well, at least European Union ones) from this site:

My name is Jim White. I’ve been with MSN and Yahoo for about 8 years and I went with the BING merger in November, 2010. In going with the merger I lost around $8,000. to BING adCenter over a 4 month period. Maybe some of you lost money in the same situation. 
As you already know in 2010 Yahoo ppc advertising and MSN ppc advertising merged. Prior to this merge I was using both services individually and had both of their tracking codes on my website. 
For about 6 months Yahoo and MSN were gearing up their advertisers for this merger into BING. They gave us lots of information to get us ready for the merge but there was one important thing they DIDN’T tell us. 
They didn’t tell us to replace our conversion codes with a new BING conversion code. 
After I went along with the merge the new company, BING, seemed too good to be true. I thought that BING was now the best thing in the world. Once I went with the merge my conversions doubled!!! My costs, as seen in the BING stats, were cut nearly in half. The first thing I did was start increasing my bids to move into 1st place to take advantage of the cheap business. As the months rolled by I started to see disturbing things in my company’s  business stats. My sales were costing me about 25% more than before the merge. 
After calling BING to try and find out what was going on it occured to me that both of those old codes (Yahoo and MSN) were each reporting to me a sale. So I was being presented with 2 conversions in my BING stats for every 1 conversion I had. This was verified over the phone by the BING representative. They knew that those old codes were giving false reports and didn’t say a thing about it to their advertisers. 
After I suspected this was happening I went to BING, got the new code and placed it on my site while deleting the 2 old codes. Instantly my conversions were cut in half. Over all, I had a period of about 4 months that I was being overcharged. 
My costs more than doubled during this time as I increased my bids using this false information from BING. I lost around $8,000 as I stated above and BING, after careful study, has determined there was nothing wrong with all this. They offered me a $1,000 credit. 
What happened to me had to have happened to many, many others too. 
If you believe you had a spike in costs and false reports you can email me at:
My intention at this point is to look into a class action suit against BING. If you know other BING advertisers please forward this text to them. 

Leave a Reply