Google has recently announced that it has changed its rules for its paid-search programme (AdWords) in the UK and Ireland, and now allows advertisers to bid for keywords matching or relating to trade-marked terms, which may include their competitors' brands.

From 5 May 2008, brand owners are no longer able to rely on Google to restrict keyword bidding for their trade marks on its AdWords programme in the UK and Ireland. Importantly, advertisers can now bid for keywords that were previously protected. This change in stance brings Google into line with its US and Canadian AdWords programmes

Despite the change, Google will continue to investigate complaints brought by brand owners which relate to use of trade-marked terms in the text of the sponsored link advert.

This will obviously have an impact for brand owners and their search marketing strategies in the UK, so much so that a number of brand owners are considering the possibility of legal action against Google, but there are other ways to tackle misuse of trade marks. Businesses will have to be more proactive now, not only by monitoring Google's sponsored links but also by directly pursuing those who are infringing their rights.

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