Should brand and direct marketers buy their own trademarks as keywords? Should you buy other competitive trademarks in your Google, Yahoo!, or other search campaigns? There are no simple answers, but recent news has put trademarks as keywords back in the limelight.

The trademark infringement case between GEICO and Google resurfaced this week due to some PR sparring between the two companies. GEICO put some heavy spin on the published ruling, evening confusing the media. Some reports indicated the case's outcome changed in GEICO's favor. In fact, the ruling was identical to last year's oral decision: Google can sell trademarked terms and marketers can run ads, so long as they don't include use of the trademark in the ad.

The judge's ruling asserts only when a trademark appears in an ad keyed to the trademark as a search term is there potential trademark violation and consumer confusion. As Google's trademark policy has long been that marketers can't use a trademark to which they don't have ad copy rights, GEICO's PR mavens claimed victory. But the primary litigation objective -- to stop the bidding -- fell in Google's favor. Essentially, the judge upheld Google's policy of forbidding misleading trademark use in ad copy.

In response to negative buzz, Google issued a response: "Google already has a policy that prohibits advertisers from using someone else's trademark in their ad text when the trademark owner objects."

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