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, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."


[…] 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 […]

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shawn Roberts, Shawn J Roberts. Shawn J Roberts said: Buying your competitor's business name in Google's AdWords: Shady Practice or Smart Competition? […]

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


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?


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.