Yahoo! Won’t Allow Trademark Keyword Bids

(Direct Newsline) Starting this week, Yahoo! Search Marketing will no longer allow U.S. marketers to bid on competitors’ trademarked keywords.

Up to now, Yahoo! advertisers could bid on rivals’ trademarks as keywords if their site gave visitors detailed comparisons to the trademarked product or service. But last week Yahoo! began sending an e-mail message to its search marketing account clients that announced a policy change as of March 1, “in order to more easily deliver quality user experiences when users search on terms that are trademarks.”

Under the new regulations, Yahoo! advertisers will still be allowed to bid on a company’s trademarks if they resell or foster the sale of the product or service. Information sites may bid on trademarks if they offer substantial information about the product or services, and if they do not promote or sell competing products on the site.

Google permits U.S. advertisers to bid on their rivals’ trademarked words and phrases as keywords for serving search ads but does not allow marketers to use those keywords in the text of ads.

Search ad clients have long complained that competitors’ use of their trademarks as keywords has the effect of confusing customers and poaching market share, but U.S. courts have so far upheld the bidding practice.

But search engines may come under even more pressure to change their trademark/keyword policies as they bid for ad revenue from big-brand advertisers. Recently a Pontiac TV spot that urged viewers to “Google ‘Pontiac’” for product information was “hijacked” by Mazda, which bid on the “Pontiac” keyword” in order to serve its own ads to those visitors.