Using Trademarked Names in Affiliate Marketing

Brett Chesney Strategies for Success

Posted by: Simon Slade, Guest Blogger

Disclaimer: Please don’t take any of this as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. I would always recommend seeking professional legal advice if you are unsure on any areas.

Nike, iPhone, Google, ClickBank – these words catch your attention because they are strong brands and are instantly recognizable. So why not use that to your advantage and include these names in your advertising? Could you get into trouble for using a brand name?

With a pretty decent AdWords spend each year, our own advertising here at Affilorama needs to be highly effective yet fully compliant. Let’s talk about some ways you can safely use trademarked brands in your advertising, and some dangerous pitfalls you want to avoid.

Vendors – Protecting your brand

If you’re a vendor, you know how important it is to develop a strong brand and look after your reputation. As your success grows so will the number of competitors, affiliates, and resellers interested in using your trademarked name(s). But the internet is a massive playground to patrol – how can you effectively monitor your brand?

  • Register your brand – You can choose to register your brand for added security in key markets. For example, in the US you can register with the US Patent and Trademark Office. This can be a powerful asset to have when you need to prevent someone using your trademark without your permission.
  • Google Alerts – A great way to monitor online activity that involves your brand name is to set up a free Google Alert.
  • Traffic Travis PPC Analysis – Monitor advertisers who are using specific keywords, such as your trademarked names, using the PPC Analysis tool.
  • Social Media search – Some social media sites are “walled gardens” and won’t appear in a standard Google search. This means you will need to perform manual searches on sites like Facebook.

What can you do if you come across what you feel is misuse of your brand?

  • Is it misuse? – First, make sure your brand is actually being misused. Google has recently relaxed the use of trademarked names by advertisers, particularly in the US. It’s also possible that the use of your brand by someone else is actually to your advantage, in the form of free publicity.
  • Contact the offender – If you are still unhappy with the use of your trademarked name, then the best course of action is to attempt to contact the offender directly and resolve the matter. Beware of “burning bridges,” as the offender may not have been misusing it intentionally and could be a powerful advocate for your product.
  • Legal recourse – If the matter is still not resolved to your satisfaction, you can turn to a third party for assistance. Google has clear guidelines on its policies for trademark usage and ClickBank has its own trademark policy that all clients must adhere to.

Affiliates – Using trademarked names the right way

Using a trademarked name can be a very effective method of promoting a product, but done outside proper usage guidelines will only create problems. So what’s the best way to use a trademarked name?

  • Work with the vendor – Cooperation and openness is the best policy to gain maximum advantage from using a trademarked name. A vendor can provide extra support and resources to boost your promotion. For example SaleHooReview is an affiliate website that promotes our popular wholesale directory service, SaleHoo. He contacted us and thus began a productive relationship that works for both parties, an arrangement that allows him to use our trademarked SaleHoo brand on his site and in his domain name.
  • Avoid negative intent – Some affiliates have been known to use a trademarked name in a negative way, such as advertising a poor review of a product to grab attention, or to switch to a competing product. If you intend to use the trademarked name in a way that casts the vendor in a bad light, then expect to be challenged for its usage.
  • Keep it ethical – Trademarked names are often used in a negative way to trick consumers. Counterfeiters are notorious for tricking consumers into believing they are buying the real thing by using names that closely resemble the original product name. Other unethical uses include impersonating the actual vendor and directly linking to their site with an affiliate link. Some of these practices are thoroughly policed and banned by Google.
  • Check advertising guidelines – Google updated their policies in June 2009, relaxing its rules on the use of trademarked names in selected countries including the US and the UK. Trademarks can be used in your targeted keywords and AdWords ad copy if you sell or review a product. But just because Google allows it doesn’t mean the vendor will – it pays to check if they place any restrictions on using their trademarked names.

Vendors and Affiliates working together with Vendor Spotlight

There’s a certain synergy that comes from vendors and affiliates working together. Rather than a vendor spending their time hunting down the “bad guys,” they can focus on working with the majority of affiliates who are genuinely interested in promoting their products in a legitimate manner.

An excellent way to build bridges with affiliates is for vendors to create their own Vendor Spotlight. The Vendor Spotlight is a good way for vendors to communicate with affiliates, and potential affiliates, about what support and resources they offer affiliates, current promotions, sales trends, and other news and tips for selling more product. We use the SaleHoo Vendor Spotlight for keeping our affiliates informed of new material we add to the affiliates area on SaleHoo or special promotions that we run.

If you need to ask the vendor questions about use of their trademarked names, and seem unable to find a way to contact them, talk to ClickBank. They may be able to mediate on your behalf.

Using trademarked names when promoting ClickBank products can really boost your sales, increasing your profile and your commissions. But when the rules of fair usage are ignored, the resulting conflict is not good for anyone.

Do you use trademarked names or brands in your promotions? What’s worked best for you? Do you feel the policies on brand name usage are too relaxed?

About the author

Simon Slade is the CEO of Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal that offers free video training, education and software tools to both beginning and advanced affiliate marketers.

Please note: Any opinions expressed here represent those of the author, and are not necessarily recommended or endorsed by ClickBank.