Why Trademarked Names Are Allowed in Google Display URL

A PPC Hero subscriber brought this to my attention the other day. He said that the name of his client’s company was trademarked, and they filed this trademark with Google so no competitors could display their trademarked term in any PPC advertisements. However, he noticed that one of his competitors did have the name of the trademarked company in their display URL.  I contacted my Google rep to ask if this conflicted with the trademark policy and sure enough, trademarked names are allowed in the Google display URL.

Here’s what she had to say,

Our trademark policy only applies to the use of the term in the ad text. We don’t monitor the display URL and thus we will not disapprove an ad if the trademark term only appears in the URL line.

For example, say “Nike” was the trademarked company we’re talking about. This is what you can’t do if Nike has filed a trademark with Google:

Nike Shoes at Discount Prices
Buy Nike Shoes at Major Discount
Prices at Shoes Galore Outlet.

However, this is what you can do:

Tennis Shoes at Discount Prices.
All Tennis Shoes at Discount
Prices at Shoes Galore Outlet.

Notice the “Nike” trademark is located in the display URL, and according to Google does not violate their trademark policy.

Personally, I don’t understand why this is okay.  The whole point of filing a trademarked name with Google is so competitors can’t advertise on that name and gain from it. But if you can put it in your display URL, then ultimately you can advertise on that name and yes, earn sales from it, assuming you are able to bid on that trademarked term.

I investigated this matter further, and there is actually an article in the Google help section that explains why they don’t monitor trademarked names in the display URL.

Basically, a company can have a trademarked name as a real sub-domain on their site for site architecture purposes. Example, using the same Nike reference, if I own a website called shoesgalore.com, and I have a full page of Nike shoes, I would probably name that page www.shoesgalore.com/nike in order to achieve the best site architecture possible.  With that said, Google can’t force advertisers to change their sub-domain names just because they’re selling a trademarked name product.  This makes complete sense to me.  Now what is unfortunate, is that in our particular case, the company doesn’t have the trademarked name as an actual sub-domain on their site. They only are using the trademarked name in their display URL to enhance click-through rates and for branded purposes.

Google says they can’t arbitrate the use of trademarked names in the display URL even if this is the case. But they do mention that you can ask the company at large to cease using your trademarked name in their display URL.  However they can deny your request.