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Google Complains About Censorship Charge

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After blowing away ads aimed at criticizing MoveOn.org by name, Google’s public policy wonks fired back and asserted that trademarks, not politics, played a role.

Readers may recognize the name ‘Lance Dutson’ from our coverage of his battles against an ad agency over its business with the state of Maine (see here and here.)

Dutson emerged in the news again, this time as an advocate for Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins. Robert Cox, head of the Media Bloggers Association, wrote in The Examiner of Google rejecting Dutson’s ads about MoveOn.org:

The banned advertisements said, “Susan Collins is MoveOn’s primary target. Learn how you can help” and “Help Susan Collins stand up to the MoveOn.org money machine.” The ads linked to Collins’ campaign Web site with a headline reading “MoveOn.org has made Susan Collins their #1 target.” The Collins Web site claims that MoveOn has contributed $250,000 to her likely Democratic opponent and has run nine ads against her costing nearly $1 million. The Web site also displays MoveOn.org’s controversial “General Betray Us” ad.

An expert on intellectual property disputes cited by Cox sided with Google’s rejection of the ads, but called the rejection, "troubling." Google policy counsel Pablo Chavez said on the company’s always interesting Public Policy blog the company did not reject the ads on political grounds:

Some time ago, MoveOn.org submitted a request to Google that its trademark not be used in any ads, and as a result our advertiser support team offered instructions on how Senator Collins’ campaign could edit and resubmit its ad.

Any company or organization — regardless of political affiliation — could do what MoveOn did and thereby prevent advertisers from running ads that include their trademarks in ad texts. And that’s very important. The ad in question could have said that MoveOn.org was great, or even just so-so, and our policy would have resulted in the same outcome; Google would have asked the advertiser to drop the trademarked phrase.

Chavez also dismissed Cox’s claim of the company running other trademarks in ads without a problem. "If ads are running on Google that include trademark terms in their text, either the trademark owner has not submitted a complaint, or the advertiser has been authorized to use the trademark," he said.

Cox posted a response on Google’s Public Policy blog, exhorting the company to change its policy. "There is no basis in trademark law to support MoveOn’s claim," said Cox.

Google Complains About Censorship Charge
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  • http://blogs.commerce360.com Craig Danuloff

    There is a loophole/flaw in the way Google enforces the trademark protection. You can use trademarked terms in the visible URL. We’ve had and lost this fight with Google on behalf of trademark owning clients. It makes no sense, but at least in the recent past it has been true.

    I’ve posted more details and an example ad I’m running right now to demonstrated at http://blogs.commerce360.com.

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