As of 23 April 2013, the Google Adwords policy now allows advertisers to purchase and use another party’s trade mark as a keyword to trigger a Google Ad. This means that a party can use a competitor’s trade mark as a keywords to trigger its own Google Ad selling similar products or services. See here for Google’s policy.
By way of example, the policy changes mean that Samsung could purchase the keyword “iphone” so that when a Google user searches for “cheap iphones”, for example, Google Ads can appear on the side advertising Samsung Galaxy phones for sale. However, there is an important limit. If the Ad then uses the trade mark, or otherwise misleads, then, of course, there will be an infringement at that stage. But when it comes to only the use of a trade mark as a keyword, it is now allowable.
This policy change affects Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea and Brazil and brings them in line with what was already the Google policy in the rest of the world. The turnaround by Google comes after the High Court’s recent finding that Google was not responsible for the content of third party Adword advertisements displayed on Google search result pages.