Comprehensive trademark management once required little more than cataloging and defending the distinguishing logos and phrases pasted onto a company's products and letterhead, but the age of online advertising has introduced new complexity to the matter. As web presence begins to factor more prominently into branding strategies, businesses must take care to ensure third parties are not willfully or accidentally taking advantage of any digital blind spots.
Perhaps the most visible component of online trademark management involves domain name registration. The ongoing implementation of ICANN's generic top-level domain (gTLD) program significantly expands the surface area brand managers must monitor. According to CircleID, companies should already be pursuing a variety of offensive and defensive strategies to enhance brand recognition and guard against subversive attempts to misappropriate their names and products.
But as gTLD disputes continue to grab headlines, similarly destructive threats may be lurking further below the surface. For example, Google AdWords (the search giant's online advertising platform) has recently been cast into the spotlight as more companies publicize their battles over the keywords that attract consumers to brands as they browse the web.
According to Bloomberg, leading U.K. clothing retailer Marks & Spencer was recently charged with trademark infringement after incorporating the proprietary terms of an independent flower delivery company into its keywording strategy and likely misleading consumers in the process.
"Keyword advertising is a very powerful tool and so it is vital for consumer protection that internet search results take consumers directly to the brands they are looking for," plaintiff spokesman Rhys Hughes cautioned in a statement emailed to the news source.