Yahoo To Prohibit Competitive Keyword Bids Containing Trademarks

Yahoo Search Marketing (searchmarketing.yahoo.com) has recently announced its advertisers of a new policy to be implemented as of March 1st 2006, concerning the use of trademarks within their products and services *.

According to the new rules there is no mention of trademarks is allowed (except in ads that are created by trademark owner themselves naturally) which means that it is not possible to make bids for keywords that contain trademarks. However, exceptions apply to the use of trademarks in ads that are not competitive like those created by re-sellers, or informative (and nevertheless non-competitive) advertisements.

The old policy permitted mentions of trademarks of competitors and other comparisons, as long as they are “objective and informative” – this formulation is a sneering annoyance to me since it’s difficult to judge one’s impartiality when talking about competitors in business. In terms of”informative” or “informative” side of it… the chance that someone will actually pay for an advertisement to be informative of a service or product of another is as plausible as the possibility that of Santa Claus.

It’s great to witness Yahoo taking a major move in the direction of regulating misuse and infringement of trademarks even though this could lead to a revenue loss for them through the fact that certain advertisers are forced to move to an “friendlier” place such as Google. According to Google’s guidelines, “[…] advertisers can choose trademarked phrases as keywords or incorporate them into the text of the advertisement. As an intermediary in providing space for ads, Google is not in the position of arbitrating trademark disputes between trademark owners and advertisers. According to the Terms and Conditions of Google, advertising companies are accountable for the search terms and the ad text they choose to utilize. Therefore, Google encourages trademark owners to settle disagreements directly with advertisers especially since advertisers may use similar ads on other websites. However, as a gesture the trademark owner, Google is willing to conduct a limited investigation into legitimate complaints.”

The question is: why should Yahoo modify its policy and give Google an even larger slice of the SEM cake? It’s too soon to tell the reason, and the official explanation offered by Yahoo isn’t 100% believable. Yahoo declares that they been in the most important interests in mind by offering them an improved experience when they search for terms that have trademarks. Although this is an excellent initiative, with positive PR impact but experts have a clear understanding that the market for search is driven by major advertisers and publishers, not by the small-scale users. Many theories can be put forward about the possibility of legal actions by the trademark holders, and pressures from specific groups of interest include among the top frequently discussed one.

But, a more likely scenario is that Yahoo is preparing for a more extensive movement that will affect the market in ways that we aren’t able to anticipate at this point.

In the meantime is released, one thing you can be happy about: starting today there will be there won’t be “better than Botox” ads on Yahoo and their partners’ sites!

* The products and services included in the new policy include the following: Sponsored Search, Local advertising, Search Submit Travel Submit, Product Submit, and Directory Submit.