*Microsoft’s adCenter Adopts Google-Like TM Policy – Microsoft ‘free-riding’ on Google’s Success in Courtrooms All Over The Planet

Microsoft recently announced that they will from March 3rd on not prevent advertisers in the USA and Canada from booking third party trademarks as keywords on its adCenter platform. adCenter delivers keyword ads to Microsoft’s search engine Bing as well as to Yahoo! (theSearch Alliance‘).

Microsoft will however, as a consequence of a complaint, continue to monitor the use of third party trademarks in the text of their ads. Microsoft allows advertisers to use third party TM also in the text of their ads but only under certain conditions (eg reseller, informational websites, comparative advertising, … ).

Microsoft effectively aligns it’s TM Policy with the TM policy Google adopted in 2009 for the USA & Canada and which Google later expanded in 2010 –post Google France– to pretty much the rest of the world in 2010. (Google changed their TM-policy actually twice in 2009 but let’s skip that tiny fact). So in fact Microsoft will take a step which not only Google has already taken back in 2009 but also which Google had to ‘bravely‘ fight for. Thus Goldman correctly remarked that Microsoft is now effectively ‘free-riding‘ on Google’s success in courtrooms all over the world.

Microsoft announced that:

Starting on March 3rd, Microsoft will modify its trademark policy pertaining to search advertising.  It will continue to investigate complaints about trademarks in advertising text but will no longer investigate complaints about trademarks used as keywords.

In its announcement Microsoft only stated that it will no longer investigate complaints about (third party) trademarks being used as keywords. This most probably means that Microsoft effectively will:

  • (as mentioned) not investigate any TM-complaints concerning keywords of their ads,
  • thus allowing advertisers to bid for any trademark,
  • which would also mean that advertisers, which were formerly banned from using certain keywords, will be allowed to do so in the future.

When analysing the change a few things might however be worth adding to the posts of Goldman and the WTR:

  • The policy change only affects the USA and Canada
  • Separate TM policies however continue to exist for the UK, Singapore and France (only French version available)
  • Microsoft states that this change will bring Microsoft in line with the ‘industry standard’ … and that this change will allow advertisers to ‘more easily port their campaigns into adCenter‘.
  • Although Microsoft provides a complaint procedure (‘Online Trademark Concern Form‘) , they point out that TM owners should contact the advertiser directly.

A more detailed analysis (of eg the policies for the UK, Singapore and France) will follow…


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