March 31, 2020

Trademarks in META Tags

There’s a thread over on webmasterworld right now about how to complain to Google about a competitor using trademarks in their META tags.

While I can understand the frustration here, I see several issues.

Firstly, I don’t think Google is the first company I’d report any type of trademark violation to. The best thing to do if somebody is misusing your trademark is to contact that company and ask them to stop. (disclaimer: IANAL so don’t treat this as legal advice.)

Failing that, I’d contact my lawyer to get them to stop. I’d be more concerned about misuse of my mark than Google’s ranking algorithm. The very nature of the question tells me that they’re more concerned with trying to outrank this person in Google than they are with the use of their trademark. (note: It’s very likely that these META tags have nothing to do with your competitor’s rank in Google)

Secondly, I’m not sure if using a trademark in META tags always counts as a trademark violation. If it only appears in META tags and not in the site title or anywhere else on the site then it’s not showing up to users – so there’s no confusion possible. There’s no way users are going to look at META tags and assume that this website is affiliated with your brand. (in all likelihood, most users will never even see these META tags)

Furthermore, if the site is comparing their brand to yours, reviewing yours, offering information about your trademark, etc then they’re not doing anything wrong. If I recall correctly, a trademark (just like a copyright) doesn’t give you strict control over the term. It just gives you exclusive rights to use it in marketing your product.

All in all, I wouldn’t worry about it. META tags are pretty useless. Don’t believe me? Look at 2 of the most competitive companies in the world: Coke and Pepsi – neither one has even their own trademarks in their META tags.

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About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com