Case Study: Monetizing Trademarks as Online Keywords

Background.  Online, trademarks can be bought and sold as keywords used in search engines-such is the business of Google and Bing.   Keywords are used to trigger paid advertisements on a web page following a search query. Tax filings show the keyword sales markets are large, currently over $30 billion annually.  However, many, and we think most, trademark owners remain unaware of the value of their marks within the online business model.

Several legal cases show the use of trademarks as keywords to be the exclusive right of the trademark owner.  For example, in December 2017, Birkenstock won a battle against Amazon when the district court in Dusseldorf, Germany ordered Amazon to stop using typo-targeting to direct shoppers to Birkenstock’s competitors during online searches.  Here in the U.S., cases such as Rescuecom Corp v. Google, 562 F.3d 123 also support a trademark owner’s exclusive right to use their trademark as a keyword.

Even though trademarks as keywords have been recognized as a legal right for owners, we were unable to locate a model or method of calculating the value of a trademark used online.  Our solution was to make one:

(Click above img. 1 to access site)

Image 1 is a screenshot of our online application to value a trademark as it is used online.  At this time, we invite trademark owners and other interested parties to test it free-of-charge.  Powered by an industry-specific algorithm known as the “L” factor, and metrics supplied by Google AdWords API, the application takes into consideration a trademark used as a keyword and the industry in which the trademark will be used.

We hope trademark owners will be able to use the application when considering which trademarks to pursue, i.e., comparing the cost of registering a trademark vs. its current online valuation.  In its beta-stage, the application is applicable to the Consumer Electronic industry only.  In coming weeks and months, we will be adding additional industry databases. Please provide us feedback so we may improve the tool.  Thanks.


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