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  • Writer's pictureAndy Cooney

How to create a Google Ads Trademark complaint

A brand's trademark is one of its most important assets but it is often infringed upon in Google search. In this article, we’ll explain the policy Google offers for brand protection, how to submit a trademark complaint and how our experience has helped brands protect their trademark online. 

What is the Google Ads trademark policy?

On July 24th, 2023, Google updated its approach to trademark complaints in Ads. The policy shifted to consider only trademark complaints against specific advertisers. This means that brands have to report individual cases rather than being able to flag all advertisers in their industry as per the previous policy. 

Outwardly, Google says this is to stop over-flagging, provide clearer guidance, and streamline the resolution process. In practice, we believe this creates more work for advertisers as they have to individually contact infringers and submit complaints. In addition to this, restrictions under the old broader policy will be phased out over the next 12 months. This means that advertisers previously restricted will be able to return to brand bidding.

You can find the official policy here.

How to create a Google Ads trademark complaint

There are several steps to report a trademark infringement under the new policy framework.

  1. Identify the Infringement: Determine if an ad uses your trademark in a way that could confuse customers, dilute your brand, or damage your reputation. This is often through the use of your trademark in the ad text, display URL, or both, in a way that might mislead consumers about the source of goods or services. To identify ads you will need to see them live. This is possible manually but our experience tracking hundreds of thousands of searches shows ads infringing on brands' trademarks often in small isolated instances. These would be very difficult to spot without a tool like Marcode.  

  2. Collect Evidence: Gather clear evidence of the infringement, such as screenshots of the ads, the URLs where the ads were seen, and any other relevant information that shows how your trademark is being used in the ads. Note that Marcode can automate this. 

  3. Attempt to Resolve Directly: Before filing a formal complaint, you should attempt to contact the advertiser directly if possible. You can do this by sending a cease-and-desist letter or a request to remove or modify the infringing ad. 

  4. Submit a Complaint to Google: 

    1. Go to Google Ads report content page (here).

    2. Select the type of Ad you are reporting 

    3. Fill out the following options to report a trademark: "legal resaons to report content relating to country/region-specific laws, such as intellectual property law", "intellectual property", "Trademark: Report a use of my trademark that is likely to cause confusion"

    4. Fill out the complaint form, providing your contact information, detailed information about your trademark (including registration number, if applicable), and the specifics of the infringement.

    5. Include all the evidence you have collected, such as screenshots and URLs.

    6. Clearly specify which ads or advertisers are infringing on your rights. Under the new policy, Google requires complaints to be specific to individual advertisers or ads rather than broad industry-wide complaints.

  5. Review and Wait for Google's Response: After submitting your complaint, Google will review the information provided. If they find that trademark infringement has occurred, they will take appropriate action against the specific ads or advertisers identified in your complaint.

  6. Follow-Up: If necessary, follow up with Google if the situation is not resolved or if new instances of infringement occur.

Marcode automates this process on behalf of our customers. 

What is our experience with these issues?

Brand & trademark infringements are widespread across all industries that we observe. These range from harmless, authorised uses of the trademark to completely fraudulent schemes. These include but are not limited to:

  • Resellers using a brand's trademark: This is often authorised but often keyword restrictions or discount restrictions are flaunted. Marcode allows brands to track keywords of their choice, and our AI-powered creative insight can alert brands to advertisers offering discounts whilst using their trademark

  • Authorised discount code sites: The ability for partner discount sites to bid on search ads is normally restricted to certain keywords. Once again these restrictions are often flaunted. As brands have relationships with these sites, they should deal directly with them instead of submitting complaints. The brands we work with have recouped media value from discount code sites bidding on keywords they are not allowed to.

  • Unauthorised discount code sites: There are a host of discount code sites that scrape codes from other providers and use brands' trademarks in ads. As brands don’t have relationships with these sites, reporting is the best way to stop infringing ads. 

  • Competitors: We see competitors using trademark terms either intentionally or not. Due to Google increasingly automating campaign creative through tools such as PerformanceMax and recommendations to implement broad match with auto-generated ads, this can be accidental. Contacting the competitor is often the best way to try and resolve this amicably. 

  • Temu: Temu deserves a category by itself as it is so widespread. We see Temu using brand trademarks in ads more than any other website, even when the brand is not related to anything they sell. They have even been detected infringing on Marcode’s trademark. Recently Dr Martens has sued them for doing this. 

  • Fraudulent websites: These can come in all shapes and sizes. For retailers, we will often observe fake websites that use close-match domains and the actual imagery from the site to defraud customers. The telecoms industry has a particular issue with similar sites selling fake top-ups to steal customers' money. Financial sites often suffer from phishing sites offering fake logins. Unfortunately, these are widespread so require very careful monitoring. When they are spotted they should be reported using Google’s user safety reporting mechanism as this is a quicker route to getting them taken down in our experience. This process can be automated within Marcode. 

Ultimately trademark infringement issues are widespread and how Google reacts can be unpredictable. Marcode can automate the process of tracking and reporting ads, reducing the time required to stop trademark usage in Google Ads and protect your brand. If you would like to see how your trademark is being used in Google Ads then get in contact and we can run a free audit. 


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