‘Misleading’ Google online ads
The warning comes from Andover-based home improvement specialist KJM Group, which was targeted by a competitor business, Cheapest Double Glazing.
The company, registered to an address in London, ran a series of Google Ads in April. These used the header 'KJM Windows – Top Quality Windows and Doors – cheapest-double-glazing.com’.
Mark Pearce, Managing Director, KJM Group, said: “Google ads are the paid-for adverts that appear at the top or the side of your search in Google.
“The ads placed by Cheapest Double Glazing, in our opinion could be very easily confused by homeowners as having been placed by us.
“The use of ‘KJM Windows’ in the strapline of the ad means that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that someone could click on it believing that they were being directed to our own website, when in fact they were being completely re-directed to a third-party site.
“We hadn’t registered our company name as a Trademark – something that we have now done – which meant that it wasn’t protected.
“In law and within Google’s own guidelines, Cheapest Double Glazing hadn’t committed an offence leaving us with very little redress, despite what is the very clear and cynical exploitation of our brand.”
The Hampshire home improvement boss is urging any local businesses which haven’t yet done to register their brands as Trademarks to avoid what he described as the pitfalls of what he described as the ‘Wild West of online advertising’.
Registration of a Trademark gives you the exclusive right to use the mark or authorise someone else to use it, for the goods or services for which it is registered. This includes the legal basis for action against someone who uses it to promote the same or similar goods for which its registered.
This also empowers businesses to seek specific redress from Google. “We’d encourage other business owners in and around Hampshire to learn from our experience. Without Trademark registration, Google won’t remove the ads despite our requests, because in law, no offence has been committed.”
Businesses who have not registered their company names as Trademarks can seek redress in Common Law under ‘Passing-off’ legislation. This puts the onus on the complainant to evidence their use of a brand or business name and the inferred ownership of it from this. “KJM Windows was formed and has been trading as KJM since 1982”, added Pearce.
He continued: “There are two issues here. One is awareness and the second are loopholes in the law. I’m prepared to hold my hands up and say that we should have registered ‘KJM Windows & Conservatories’ as a Trademark.
“We won’t, however, be the first or the last small business to assume that because we registered our business with Companies House, it would give us some control over its use as a business name.
“And while the Trades Description Act offers some protection, it is clear that there are gaps which can be exploited.
“We’d encourage everyone to get registered but will also be taking the points we have made to our newly elected MP.”