Friday, March 03, 2006

Yahoo's Trademark Decision, and the difference between Y and G

Niki Scevak's got a good post on Yahoo's decision to alter its trademark-term bidding policy. He points out that this is sort of lose/lose/win situation, where Yahoo loses (revenue), Shopping Engines lose (traffic), but the trademark owners win (the exclusive right to advertise on their brand names).

I've written a couple times about the challenge of bidding on trademark terms. In general, I believe it should be allowed, provided there the ad demonstrates relevance (which is the same test that is always applied to SEM ads). The fact is that Whopper is at least somewhat synonymous with Hamburger in this brand-saturated world. I don't know that you can definitively say that someone searching on Whopper is absolutely looking for a Burger-King made and branded cheeseburger. They may be using Whopper as shorthand for what they are looking for.

Google, of course, is hands-off on this one. They are happy to let anyone bid on a trademarked term. They do have the very clever caveat, though, that each ad must have a unique URL. This is good, in that it forces anyone looking to tag-along with the search (ie affiliates) to generate some content of unique value.

What about the over-zealous lawyers that Niki refers to? From my view, I think Yahoo is much more inclined (at a corporate and cultural level) to pay very close attention to them. Google, on the other hand, is far more aggressive. In a sense, I think Google feels they are innovating, not only in technology, but in marketing and culture. I believe that Google will act, then wait for the lawyers to catch up with them.

Who's in a better position? Well, short term it certainly feels like Google. They move quickly and aggressively. But in the long term? The question of sustainability will haunt them.
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