Europe blocks trade marks as search terms

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Picture of the European flagPA

Europe has been legislating about our businesses again but this time it's hard to argue with - competitors may not buy search terms that are trademarked to someone else. Although not a trademark someone once did this to me and it's dirty - allow me to explain what should no longer happen...

It works like this. When you search for something on Google, Bing or whichever search engine you choose, there are two sets of results - the "natural" results and the sponsored ones. The natural ones are found by Google's automated bits searching for what is actually on the site.

The sponsored ones involve people paying per click for a search term - which is how the search engines and web browser writers make their money. Click on them and the advertiser pays a small amount. Which is fine as long as they're using their own name or search terms.

Near misrepresentation


The thing is, some of the less scrupulous marketers have been using terms associated with the competition. Think of it as if you were searching for a company called Guy's Books, and there was another shop called Gary's Books, which bought "Guy's Books" as a search term so that every time you searched for the former company on Google a link to the latter would pop up.

You think things like that wouldn't happen? Well, the Europe decision only took place after Marks and Spencer bought the search term "Interflora", attracting potential Interflora shoppers to its website.

A similar thing happened to me once. I was part of a group of journalists offering media training service. We had a falling out and a few of us formed our own group - I won't bore you with the details. But I found on checking that for a while, people searching my name came up with the first group because they had bought it as a search term.

Which is either sneaky or unbelievably astute and a bit of a compliment, depending on your standpoint. And of course as my name isn't trademarked they could do it again, quite legitimately, tomorrow if they wished. The new EU ruling is at least a start at stamping out that sort of practice.