Brand hijacking is the practice of using a competitor’s name as a keyword in a Google AdWords PPC campaign. For you, this means that, if your competitor wishes, he or she can put your firm’s name as one of their keywords. If they do so, and someone types in your firm’s name, the ad for your competitor will appear.
This can confuse prospective clients and, in the worst-case scenario, have them calling and hiring your competitor. Not cool.
Yes. You Should Be Concerned.
This is a pretty big deal. In some cases, it's taking away from the contacts an attorney gets and has a serious effect on business. In fact, hijacked law firms sometimes find their competitor’s location coming up on Google Maps! Clearly, this is a “black hat” practice. It's unfair—plain and simple.
But is it illegal? Not yet. In fact, a recent court case in Wisconsin found that freedom of speech allows businesses to use the names of their competitors in Google AdWords. The court recognized that individuals do have the right to preserve the integrity of their name, but that freedom of speech trumped this right.
So, for now, there is no legal precedent for cases of brand hijacking. Google still has the right to sell your name and the name of your law firm to the highest bidder.
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