Would you rather have all your ads be disapproved for using a trademark or have a competitor use your trademarked term? Both are major downers that can seriously affect paid search performance.

Recently, I dealt with both of these issues, which enhanced my knowledge of the AdWords trademark policy. The key to all trademark issues is the “3rd Party Authorization Request form.” The secret to not going crazy is to remain patient. Lawyers move slowly.

First off, bidding on competitor terms is legal. For example, if my brand is “Acme,” my competitor “Beta,” can bid on my trademark term. We won’t get into the pros and cons of bidding on competitor terms, but as long as my competitor doesn’t use my branded terms in his ad copy, everything is OK. The issue arises when my competitor uses my brand term in his copy. If the advertiser does not have authorization from the trademark owner, there is a problem.

First ask, is your brand term trademarked? If you answered no, you will most likely have to address this issue first. If you answered yes, let’s get started!

Step 1: Determine whether you need to receive authorization to complete the form yourself or if the legal department will take care of the issue. It will be simpler if the owner of the trademark or someone already authorized can complete the form. However, if they are able to give legal authorization, you will be able to move forward with processing the request yourself.

Step 2: Complete the form entirely. The majority of the information is straightforward, but it is important to fill the form out correctly.

Google requests an email address for future requests to use the trademark. The email address on file with Google will be contacted when an advertiser files a complaint or requests the use of the trademark.

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Putting your AdWords Customer ID will guarantee that your own ads won’t be disapproved as Google starts disapproving your competitors’ ads.

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Timeframe: 3-6 weeks. The complaints are processed as they are received.

Exceptions: There are always exceptions. If your trademarked term is being used in relation to an ordinary manner or a different service, they can carry on uninterrupted.

“But I should be able to use this word!”

Sometimes, you have been given or bought the rights to sell a particular product. Not being able to use the name in the ads will put you at a severe disadvantage, especially if the product is well known for its name.

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Similar to above, you should ask yourself if you are indeed allowed to use this term in your ad copy. If it is a trademarked term, the disapproval is valid. However, there are obviously times when we should be able to use certain keywords within our ads, depending on our rights to them.

The owner of the trademark will need to complete the “3rd Party Authorization Request” and file your AdWords account as an authorized entity to use the term.  This will also be the case when you would like to allow someone, other than yourself, to advertise for your product.

In many cases, you already have a contact at the company that has given you the authorization to sell the product or to advertise it elsewhere that may be able to expedite the process for you. Email them the link to the form and your AdWords Customer ID.

If you do not have a contact, this is where you should reach out to Google. They will be able to send you in the right direction.

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Timeframe:  Unknown. It depends on the speed of others to complete the form.

Exceptions: It is the same exception as outlined above. Does the trademarked term have an ordinary meaning? Does it not specifically reference the same type of goods or services? For example, ‘penguin’ is a trademarked term for the company. However, when talking about actual products related to the animal penguin, this could qualify as an exception and requires the completion of a different form.


Trademarks are only one obstacle of paid search. They can work for you and against you.

This week is series week for all the obstacles that we can face in paid search and how to fix them! Carrie’s post yesterday was about lead quality and there are more obstacle posts to look for this week.