Brand owners should be vigilant and should police the use of their marks at all times by others. This includes when any marks are used in commerce as keywords in advertising or on a competitor’s website directly. In fact, trademark owners should monitor their marks’ use on the Internet as frequently as possible. If you find any improper uses, you should immediately utilize the search engine’s complaint process and dispute procedures.
Trademark owners should also consider bidding on their own trademarks. Each day, it seems more businesses are employing this approach to help stop unauthorized use of their marks. Bidding on your own trademarks will allow you to control your brand much more effectively.
You should also contact anyone that is improperly using your business’s trademarks as keywords immediately and send a Cease and Desist letter from your legal counsel. These types of letters are usually the first step in initiating any claim of unauthorized trademark use. You are basically notifying the infringer of your trademark rights and demand that the unpermitted use stop immediately.
In my experience, these demand letters are taken seriously by the infringers and they do tend to at least disrupt the unauthorized use of trademarks, if not stop it altogether. Often, this is as far as you’ll need to take any claim before the infringement is voluntarily stopped.
Your business should take this issue very seriously if it is ever on the receiving end. Once you or your business has been made aware of the infringement and asked to stop but does not, treble damages can enter the picture!