Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Google adwords trademark WTF (and the Google boilerplate-bot not yet Turing ready)

In keeping with their revised slogan[1] Google suspended one of my adwords ads because it uses the word "penguin", which is evidently trademarked. They said there was a complaint, but did not say by whom (the book publisher? The hockey team?)

My ad, of course, refers to the flightless waterbirds who are the herring-obsessed hat-wearing stars of my cartoon; my ad attempts to sell bumper stickers, t-shirts and other related penguin-themed stuff, not books or hockey players.

But now my ad can't say the word "penguin." Weirdly, it's perfectly OK to have it as a search term. So if you search "penguin cartoon" and my ad pops up, it will now say something like "buy some bumper stickers and t-shirts featuring a bird whose name cannot be shown here" or whatever I have to change the ad to. Enticing.

I wrote to Google asking "Who trademarked it?" [2]

Their support department replied (and I am not making this up)

"For the trademarked term 'penguin' to appear in your ads, we require direct authorization from the trademark owner. Please ask the trademark owner to follow the trademark authorization steps"



[1] "Don't be evil to giant corporations. The rest of you? screw off."

[2] Yeah, I know there's a database out there somewhere, and I can do some research and find out the boilerplate-bot at the owner-of-the-word-penguin - but I'm mad. I'd start the email with "Dear overreacting word stealing trademark nazis:" and I'm sure it would go downhill from there. Plus I use the word a lot in the strip and I don't want them to cease & desist my cartoon. Could they?

Posted via web from Jen's posterous

1 comment:

WebVixn said...

Quick! Grab Meerkat or Rhinoceros before they're taken! I'm thinking there may be a business in trademarking animal names? Thank you for the humorous (yet sad) post!