Google’s trademark policy revision kickstarts “brandjacking” debate

This is a viewpoint by Simone Puorto

Last week, you may have received a message from, informing you about an ads trademarks policy update. Even though this may look like the usual policy update that you quickly gloss over, it is, in fact, bad news for hotels.

Bad, bad news.

In the email, it’s stated that:

 “Advertisers may use a trademark term in ad text if they are a reseller of, offer compatible components or parts for, or provide information about the goods and services related to the trademarked term.”

Translating from legalese, this appears to suggest that OTAs and metasearch engines will be soon able to freely “brandjack” (or, if we want to stick with a more acceptable term, “affiliate brand bid”) hotels on Google’s search network.

Meeting the policy criteria appears extremely simple. As long as “the product or services” is “clearly available for purchase from the ad’s landing page” resellers will be able to use trademark terms (meaning: your hotel name) freely.

Similarly, informational sites, such as review platforms or blogs, will also qualify “when the primary purpose of the ad’s landing page is to provide informative details about goods or services corresponding to the trademarked term.”

Travel is, according to MarkMonitor, acomplex online ecosystem that relies on multiple third parties to extend a brand’s web visibility and, ultimately, to drive trafficand that “potential conflict occurs when third parties begin to compete with brands for the same traffic”. According to MarkMonitor, the economic damage of brandjacking in our industry is estimated to be more than $2 billion a year.


Even though keyword-level protection has not been possible for almost 10 years now, hotels could submit infringement complaints with Google, preventing resellers, at least, from using the hotel brand in the ad titles and text in the EU and EFTA regions.

The policy revision seems to deny hotels this option.

Protecting your hotel brands at ad-level was not as effective as blocking OTAs from using your trademark terms completely. But ad-level brand protection played an important role in the average CPC hotels had to invest in order to overbid resellers.

By preventing the use of your hotel name in’s ads, for example, you were affecting the quality of the OTA’s ads, forcing it to increase its bid to maintain its SERP ranking. For the hotels, this meant lower CPCs, higher quality scores and better SERP visibility.

Well, up until last week.

Now, as long as an OTA’s landing pages for your property keep being “primarily dedicated to selling” your rooms (and why shouldn’t they?) and “display commercial information about them, such as rates or prices”, they’re back in the brandjacking game.

This will make a lot of unscrupulous advertising agencies happy, as hotels will very likely have to increase dramatically their investments to keep up with resellers, especially in EU/EFTA regions, where the ad-level protection applied.

As Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom said earlier this year at a Goldman Sachs conference, “it’s everyone bidding against everyone”.

According to Google, these new policies will be applied “over the next several months” and, on their trademark policy page, I can still read that “for ad campaigns targeting the European Union and European Free Trade Association regions, the policy for trademarks in ad text and keywords applies. “

Bottom line is: take a look at your ads’ average CPC for branded campaigns because it’s going to get way higher.

And no trademark will save you.

NOTE: We asked Google for a response. It replied:

“The Google Ads Trademark reseller and informational site policy has been in effect in the UK since 2010. We’re now implementing it in other markets, streamlining the policy for advertisers and trademark holders worldwide.”

This is a viewpoint by Simone Puorto

Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of tnooz, its writers, or its partners.

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