Trademark hijackers are hurting online advertisers; here’s how to stop them

By David Grow
April 29, 2017

Avery Labels worked hard to establish its brand among consumers as the premier retailer of label products, as well as providing software solutions through their design-and-print-online tool and one-stop premium printing service, “WePrint.” As a result, when consumers search online for label products, Avery is typically the top-of-mind brand, making Avery the envy of its competitors. A few of those competitors recently attempted to benefit from Avery’s category-leading position by using the Avery trademark on their digital marketing ads without Avery’s permission, which not only drove up Avery’s ad costs and cut into its results, but was a clear case of trademark infringement.

Here’s a quick rundown of how this benefited Avery’s (less than scrupulous) rivals while hurting Avery in its digital marketing campaigns:

  • Hijacking the Avery trademark improved the relevance of ads on searches that included “Avery” keywords (keywords are the words or phrases describing a product or service that advertisers choose to help determine when and where their ads can appear online)
  • The relevance boost not only improved the quality scores of competitors’ ads — thus improving how often they were served to consumers who searched for Avery — it also lowered their costs to advertise
  • Lower costs enabled the competitors to be more aggressive in their bidding, which unfairly inflated Avery’s cost-per-click (CPC) on brand searches

For many organizations, it’s easy to overlook trademark hijacking in online advertising because of the variety of publishers and networks that serve ads, but a three part recipe of intelligent technology, diligent management and legal support can turn the tide. This was the mixture that enabled us to stop these rogue competitors of Avery in their tracks. A quick look at the strategies we used to regain control of the Avery trademark in digital marketing reveals a few best practices which should assist organizations in their efforts to identify and overcome similar trademark infringement challenges and stop them from boosting competitors and hurting the trademark owner.

[[Advertisement]]

Catch hijackers in real-time with intelligent technology

To catch competitors using the Avery trademark in their ad copy without Avery’s authorization, we partnered with The Search Monitor, a company that tracks brand and trademark use on paid, organic and local search marketing, as well as display ads, mobile and shopping engines, in real-time. The Search Monitor delivered daily reports with complete details of the offending ads, including the names of the trademark hijackers, details of their ad copy, time and date of each violation, screenshots and destination URLs.

Put violators on legal notice with publishers

Citing the evidence laid out in our daily reports, we leveraged The Search Monitor to file trademark violation notices with publishers Bing, Google and Yahoo (the three largest digital ad publishers). After verifying the reported violations, the respective publishers pulled the offending ads from their networks. The positive result was felt immediately, mostly resolving Avery’s trademark hijacking issues.

Stay diligent; don’t let up on the repeat offenders

Of course, there’s always at least one holdout. Undeterred by the publishers pulling its ads, one Avery competitor (that we’ll refer to as “Competitor A”) continued to show up repeatedly in our daily reports. In fact, nearly every time its violations were reported to the publishers and its ads removed, Competitor A would write new ad copy featuring “Avery” prominently in its headlines and re-publish its ads.

Armed with the violations described in the reports, Avery’s legal team issued a Cease and Desist Order to Competitor A, which immediately complied – Competitor A has not violated Avery’s valuable trademark in its digital advertising since, a major victory for Avery.

Impacting the bottom line

Stripped of their ability to hijack the Avery trademark to increase the relevance of their ads, Avery’s competitors – especially Competitor A – could no longer afford to aggressively bid on Avery brand keywords, artificially driving up Avery’s costs. As a result, Avery’s brand CPCs dropped by a substantial 64 percent, clicks spiked by 34 percent and costs were cut by more than half (51 percent). Avery was then able to reinvest the thousands of dollars it saved from slashing its brand CPCs to successfully drive more awareness, qualify site traffic and increase sales through its digital marketing campaigns.

Even though publishers have stringent trademark policies (here is Google’s, for example), hijacking remains a common practice in digital advertising, partly because it often gets overlooked by the organizations that own the trademark. The variety of publishers and networks in the digital arena can make manual tracking of these violations time and energy intensive. This is where the mix of technology, diligence and legal support can pay major dividends for organizations in their digital advertising efforts. As Avery showed, the time and effort necessary to combat trademark hijackers can significantly improve outcomes.

The Author

David Grow

David Grow is the Digital Media Director at Chacka Marketing in Tampa, FL. David graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, and a secondary major in Political Science in 2005. In 2009, David received his Juris Doctor from Western New England School of Law. Always at the forefront of industry innovations, David has driven growth for clients large and small through his expert analysis, strategic insights, team management, and ability to adapt in an always evolving industry. His talent for quickly analyzing and utilizing emerging products and technologies has not only been of great value to his clients, but also the subject of multiple case studies and publications.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently No Comments comments.