The World Cup, Google, and Trademarks

The World Cup, Google, and Trademarks - Quick Off The MarkThe World Cup, Google, and Trademarks.  As is the case every four years, the FIFA World Cup is currently the focus of everybody’s attention all over the world. Where attention lies, advertisers follow. Whether you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper or browsing the internet, odds are that a day won’t pass where you haven’t been bombarded with marketing messages attempted to garner your attention by leveraging the epic status that the World Cup holds.

One company that makes its billions by capitalising on the things that dominate the world’s attention is Google. Most of the time, when someone enters a search phrase into Google they will be met with a results page, at the top of which, there will often be advertised links. Companies pay Google to have these top-of-the-list advertising spots and Google makes a lot of money from doing so.

The World Cup, Google, and Trademarks

cup trademark infringementWith World Cup related searches surpassing the millions prior to the World Cup even starting, one would think that Google would be licking its lips at the thought of charging top dollar for World Cup-related advertised listings. However, this will not be the case. In fact, Google will not be showing ads for the majority of “World Cup” searches. This is a less than ideal scenario for Google but the decision to forgo the majority of World Cup related ad placements is not without good reason. That reason is to prevent the legal quarrels concerning the World Cup trademark.

FIFA, the organisation in charge of the football World Cup has trademark and intellectual property rights to the World Cup and many of its related terms- even the term ‘Brazil 2014‘ is part of this collection of rights that FIFA holds.

The World Cup, Google, and Trademarks

Google trademarkIn the past, Google has found itself subject to legal disputes with companies and organisations whose intellectual property has been exploited by other companies who use trademarked terms in their advertising copy. Google’s trademark protection policy thus prohibits advertisers from using trademarked terms in their advertising copy. However, in many cases, Google chooses not to display ads related to particular trademarks at all. This is the case with the current World Cup.

When somebody searches “World Cup”, “Brazil 2014” or similar terms, rather than display advertised links at the top of the search results page, Google displays what they call the OneBox. The OneBox displays match results and information about the presently occurring tournament. This trademark protection mechanism is not only limited to phrases registered by FIFA, but similar related phrases such as “when does Australia play?” and “Australia results”.

world cup trademarksHowever, FIFA, the owner of the trademarks, can advertise on its own terms, and thus official World Cup sponsors and affiliates are still able to advertise. Therefore if somebody searches, for example, “world cup merchandise” advertised links will be displayed for the official FIFA.com store and an official FIFA affiliate merchandiser, such as Fangear.com. FIFA allows this because they benefit from licensing deals made with these affiliate stores.

If you want to protect your brand name from being exploited by being used in other business’s advertising copy you must register your brand’s trademarks. This is especially important if your business relies on on-line sales and you don’t want potential customers to be misled to another company’s website under the mistaken belief that Google has led them to your website.

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