Buying your competitor’s business name in Google’s AdWords: Shady Practice or Smart Competition?

This seemed like a simple question to me when I started to look at it for a client:  Of course one cannot buy one’s competitor’s name in Google’s AdWords, that would violate several laws and be confusing to consumers.  However, what I discovered was unsettled legal issues and different scenarios where purchasing a competitor’s name might be acceptable.  Some of my thoughts, in audio format, are below.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Cazes Roberts, PLLC in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with wife Amy and my two children, Sam (17) and David (9). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."

5 comments

[…] Tuesday, November 15, 2011 posted by shawnjroberts Last year I recorded some audio in a post about using a competitor’s name in Google’s Adwords. My post was inspired by a case on […]

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Jesse Spencer

Isn’t this very similar to some of the techniques used in SEO? I may not be preventing my competitor from using his own name, but I am using his name to try and get hits my way. Seems like there might be a fine line between this (probably not really helpful anyway) SEO practice and buying my competitor’s business name in AdWords. Sounds like a call to action to get busy with AdWords! I confess I have a nagging feeling, though that keeps saying “You snooze, you loose!”

Shawn J. Roberts

Jesse,

Thanks for the comment, you raise some interesting points. I expected the issue to be much clearer because a company’s name is its property and it has the right to control how it is used, to a certain extent. Also, there is confusion when a consumer searches for Company A and results appear to list Company A first but the resulting click through takes the consumer to Company A’s competitor, Company B. Not everyone is going to be confused, but I know least a few people will be confused.

You are correct though, in that a business would wise to try to prevent this from happing.

What business are you in?

Shawn

Tom from onlinecasino

You may have not intended to do so, but I think you have managed to express the state of mind that a lot of people are in. The sense of wanting to help, but not knowing how or where, is something a lot of us are going through.