Last week, there was a flurry of news covering Amazon being sued over using trademarked terms in their PPC ads. In a nutshell, a company called Video Professor was unhappy that Amazon was bidding on their name, but the landing page had competing products featured on it.
At first pass, I thought “fair enough.” But then I read the details and discovered that the landing page on amazon.com did indeed include Video Professor products. While it is a best practice to send PPC searches for “video professor” to a landing page on amazon.com showing only Video Professor products rather than a broader category page with multiple product lines, the fact that other competing products also appear on the search page does not make this a trademark infringement.
I am continually surprised and perturbed by these type of complaints and lawsuits. If this were an ad in traditional media, no one would bat an eye. For whatever reason, search is under the microscope for frivolous trademark complaints. Further, I believe that Google’s trademark policy only exacerbates the issue. By allowing companies to file trademark complaints, Google encourages lawsuits such as this, and hurts the advertisers who are legitimate sellers of the trademarked product.
I wrote about this 2 years ago, so I won’t rehash the whole argument here. My take on the Amazon suit is that, especially in tough economic times, companies are lawsuit-happy and perceive successful online organizations such as Amazon and Google to have deep pockets. In reality, all they’re doing is making things difficult for all PPC advertisers.