eBay Bans Google Keywords
By Ina Steiner
John Corea, owner of AuctionSageSoftware.com, has been marketing software to help eBay sellers since 1999. He uses Google's advertising service to reach potential customers, but recently ran into a roadblock in the form of eBay lawyers.
eBay is banning Google advertisers from using the search term "eBay" to reach searchers. Jeff Housenbold, Vice President of Internet Marketing and Business Development for eBay, sent a letter to Google on June 5, 2003, along with a list of terms that eBay says are trademarked. Terms on the list include "ebay," "bay," and "auction web sites."
Corea says he has been using terms like "ebay listing software" and "reliable software for ebay" in his Google Adwords campaign. When a person goes to Google.com and enters a search, sponsored text advertisements appear in the right-hand column. Advertisers like Corea choose keywords to tell Google where to show their ads, and pay only when someone clicks on the ads.
"eBay is rendering my advertising ability impossible," Corea said, claiming it's hypocritical of eBay to ban his ads from appearing on Google. "If you do a search on Google for "Gucci" (a trademarked name), eBay's ad shows up." In addition, eBay recently introduced their own ad service called Keywords on eBay in which advertisers can use brand names as search terms (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y03/m06/i24/s01).
Jennifer Granick, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said there is something wrong with trademark law that puts companies in the position of having to aggressively police their trademarks for fear that people will use them and they will become generic. "That being said, companies often overreach and corner the market on a generic word or try to stop the use of the trademark in clearly legal circumstances."
"I'm sympathetic," Granick continued, "but companies have to show self-restraint, or they chill speech."
Corea said he's upset over the principle of the matter. He calls eBay an "arrogant monopoly" and sent an email to the Department of Justice asking them to look into the matter. He said he is getting fewer software downloads than when he was running the Google Adwords campaign, but word of mouth from satisfied customers will help him continue to stay in business.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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