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In response to the dialog that Joe Orr and Brian Pasch are having about dealer name piracy.Conversely the review site ranking strategy would be very easy for your competitors to take advantage of. With just a little bit of link building an aggressive competitor could have negative reviews optimized for your name. Negative review sites have more authority, more people will link to negative information than positive. Links to these negative review can be bought really cheap. Which gives these negative reviews more search engine relevance than hundreds of positive reviews. Some review sites even participate in buying fake reviews so they can optimize for your name. Jim Rucker did an article about it where www.lotpro.com is participating in this scheme. Your competitors with an aggressive dealer microsite strategy could also rank for your name very easily. We have dealers occupying as many as five search engine entries with microsites for their competitors names, done in such a way that their competitors do not have a leg to stand on, this is the same strategy that Sean Bradley has touted with VSEO, but if they complain we will remove their name from the site. There are many ways to grab traffic on competitors names and insure your own name in the search engine results pages. On grabbing traffic on competitors names you need to make sure you don't have any reason to have a business relationship with that store, it can and will make that relationship difficult if you participate in this strategy.
As long as the content does not suggest endorsement or sponsorship you don't have much room to complain. A site disclaimer as simple as "This site and offers presented are not endorsed or sponsored by and dealership presented" is probably enough to grant the webmaster safe harbor. The fact that you let review sites present advertising on your dealership name would also help bolster their case because then you are participating in selective enforcement of your trademark especially with the very competitive ads shown on the screen cap below. Using the lead gen site example. If they were trying to capture leads using a call to actions such as "Get a fast Internet Quote from ABC Motors" when the leads were going to other dealers then your trademark claim would be valid if they were only going to you then you need to contact the lead provider and protest. If the call to action said "Get Quotes from Brand dealers and Compare the price offered by ABC Motors" a complaint may fall on deft ears. Think the "Pepsi Challenge" In Brian Pasch's post about "Online Piracy" he bought up his experience with BMW
I had BMW attorney call me one day because I had a BMW SEO case study website up on http://www.bmwseo.com. They said that since I was in the business of making money from SEO, I can’t use the BMW in the domain even though it may help their dealers.In Brian's bmwseo.com predicament. I may of told an attorney that reached out to me, depending on his demeanor, to fly a kite unless his client wanted to purchase the domain name. That really falls under fair use, especially if you were offering a service geared or case study specifically to BMW dealers. A better option on the domain name would of been bmwdeaelrseoservices.com to completely avoid confusion and prevent a trademark dilution claim. A product description such as BMW Dealer SEO Services is an acceptable derivative, with the right disclaimer. bmwseo.com may create confusion in the eyes BMW consumers but once they clicked through it would be obvious that it was a service offering to dealers and not an offer to sell cars. It really is no different than after market accessories for Honda Accords when they use the words Honda Accord in their product description. Trademark law is generally focused on Consumer Protection not the protection of the trademark holder. It is to protect consumers from confusion. In my opinion it is completely legal to use a dealers name or competing vendors name in a strategy or product review, however you need to be able to live with the repercussions. Those that publish them usually are well aware of the pros and cons. My company would never use a dealer client's name in our online marketing materials in indexed content, however we may use a vendors name that we represent because our website message and traffic is geared towards consumers of online automotive marketing solutions. That is the balance we maintain. Dealers that are really concerned with trademark and copyright concerns want to dig into http://www.chillingeffects.org/ which covers many of these topics. That way they can get a better grasp of what is really involved in protecting their brand, their rights and the rights of those they feel are infringing upon it and not just take my word or another vendors word for it. It is a a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics. Make sure you are in attendance for our next webinar Wednesday at noon est 10-28-2009 where Jim Rucker, Brian Pasch and myself will discuss ways for dealer to own all 10 positions for their name and offer some differences of opinion. You will be able to ask questions during the webinar and we would welcome another panelist.