Saturday, May 10, 2008

First official legal threat in travel over trademark bidding

To end a pretty turbulent week in the world of Google pay-per-click, Teletext issued a statement last night threatening any company with legal action if it bids on the word "teletext".

As far as we are aware this is the first legal challenge made public by any travel company in the UK.

You can see who is still bidding on the word "teletext" by clicking here. At least one major travel company pulled its ad less than an hour after the threat being issued, so it worked.

It brings to a close one of the most bizarre weeks in recent memory for search marketers as companies have been forced to decide whether to bid against rivals and protect their brand name by throwing money into the system to ensure their own ads are not out-bid.

Or sit tight and see how the market reacts...

But throw another spanner in the works in the form of supposed "gentleman's agreements" (we revealed this a few weeks back), which some believe may be contravening competition laws, and the issue starts getting very messy indeed.

An email last night from one chief executive summed up the week and the feeling of many pretty well:

"Lawyers will get rich, Google will get richer - a pain for us all. Big brands will defend, little ones will exploit - a mess."
Our prediction is that the ease with which Google made the switch in the US in 2004 will not be replicated so smoothly here in the UK.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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Darren Cronian said...

There's one travel company which has an PPC ad up when searching for teletext.

Does anyone think that this change by Google makes a complete mockery of the trademark standards?

Travolution Blogger said...

would you consider "travel rants" a trademark?

currently, eight travel companies are bidding on your brand name, including travelsupermarket, thomson, first choice, icelolly, teletext (ironically) and sta travel.

they are not looking to send traffic your way, but to their own sites.

Darren Cronian said...

Well, I haven't registered 'travel rants' as a trademarked name, if I was to, then I would be up against the same problems as Teletext etc.

I am in an unfortunate position though that I could not afford legal fee's to defend my brand, so this is why this ruling by Google, in my opinion, makes a mockery of the trademark act.

I'm no expert on Trademarks by any means, but I was wondering why the UK Intellectual Property Office have not commented on Google's decision.

Anyone bidding on the travel rants brand is obviously taking advantage of my success, and the Travolution award win. ;)

Daniele Beccari said...

"travel rants" probably not trademarkable, but "travelrants" definetely should be.

I must sound like a broken record, but I'd like someone with legal skills to explain why companies are considering legal action againts other unfortunate bidders breaking trademarks, instead of sueing the search engines who are actually selling the trademarks and making money out of those sales.

Nicola Grimshaw said...

I think it's a great move for travel agents!

In the past I have bid on our suppliers names which were subsequently trademarked. Prior to them being trademarked, some companies did contact me to ask me to stop bidding on their names, to which I responded 'fair enough, I'll remove them straight away, if you prefer direct bookings, but don't expect me to support your company in future.' As an online company I see the Internet as my shop window and if tour operators and suppliers don't want me to pay to advertise their products they are clearly not agent friendly, and thus I don't want to sell them!

Bidding on competitors names is not quite as clear cut, ethically, but it doesn't really bother me. There are plenty of companies bidding on 'Luxury Worldwide Holidays' (my url is and I wouldn't expect them to stop. Obviously, not all customers typing 'luxury worldwide holidays' into the navigation bar are looking for my company, but if they are they will find it towards the top of the first page of results, anyway. I guess the position is different for big brand names...

I think it is completely hypocritical of teletext not to want anyone to bid on their name but are happy to bid on names 'owned' by others.

Matt Cheevers said...

A response to some of the points raised here ....

1. You need to understand broad matching vs bidding on a term before you claim teletext are bidding on brand names.

2. This is purely a trademark issue and not a brand issue

3. who says that companies like ours are not seeking a legal view on Google's position?!

4. Nicola, a travel agent talking about direct bookings, companies being "agent unfriendly" and about "future support", glad to see things haven't changed! I would love you to tell me why we are being hypocritical

As a media owner I can at times understand Google's position. Can they seriously police other people's trademarks. My issue is that they are now claiming this move is to improve the user experience, that is a nonsense