Competitive Keyword Bidding: France Loses Its Mind

Ian Lurie

french corpeye
Corporate Eye has a post today about two French companies who are suing Google.
The reason? Google has allowed competitors to bid on terms for which the two companies hold trademarks.
I’ve ranted about this before, so I won’t belabor it now. Instead, let’s try a few hypotheticals:
Let’s say you’re BMW and you want to, I dunno, compare your car to other makes and models. Does the use of their trademarked terms in your comparison mean you’ve violated trademark law?
What if you have a TV commercial comparing your car to other makes and models? Is that a trademark violation?
A billboard?
A newspaper ad?
What if you buy advertising in a magazine on the page opposite a competitor. Does that violate trademarks?
If you prevent bidding on competitive trademarked terms, you prevent one of the most basic forms of competition: Explaining why you’re better. Plus, it opens the door for companies to sue any time competitors use their trademarked terms are used in media.
I’d like to hope that courts around the world will eventually figure this out, and force litigious clients to find another way to get their legal rocks off. For now, though, it appears French attorneys have found a great way to pad their hours…

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. This happens quite a few times now. Personally I think trademark protection is necessary. Explaining why you’re better is just one ad, but competitors may start badmouthing about the trademark.
    What I I hope is that companies don’t start suing Google or web site owners for trademark infringement when writing about “[something] s*cks” and then rank higher than the companies’ web sites…

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