Google Counters Ads For Counterfeit Goods

About 50,000 AdWords accounts were closed in the last half of 2010 for advertising fake brand name products.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

March 15, 2011

2 Min Read

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Google on Tuesday said it is taking additional steps to combat attempts to advertise counterfeit goods through its advertising programs.

There over one million advertisers using AdWords in more than 190 countries, according to Kent Walker, SVP and general counsel at Google. And in the second half of 2010, Google shut down about 50,000 of those accounts for advertising counterfeit goods, Walker said in a blog post.

Legitimate brands lose a considerable amount of money each year as a result of the sale of counterfeit goods, though just how much is open to debate. Figures as high as $250 billion a year are often cited by organizations with a vested interest in the problem -- IP trade groups and agencies funded to police IP crimes -- but Reuters writer Felix Salmon has suggested a more realistic figure is probably about 200 times less and that really there aren't any reliable figures.

But regardless of the statistics, it's a problem when it's your brand being counterfeited.

Walker describes the situation as a cat-and-mouse game, a metaphor also used regularly to describe efforts to combat malware.

Hoping to catch more mice, Google is now promising to respond to AdWords counterfeit complaints within 24 hours. The company will also work more closely with brand owners to police its AdSense program, through which Google publishing partners host AdWords ads. In addition, Google has created a new support page to make it easier to report advertising abuse.

Walker says that Google invested over $60 million in 2010 to fight efforts to misuse the company's advertising programs to sell counterfeit brands and that over 95% of the advertiser accounts ousted in the last six months of 2010 were the result of Google's detection efforts.

Google isn't simply taking these steps out of concern for merchants. It's also worried its own brand might be harmed if online shoppers have a bad experience with counterfeit goods as a result of a Google ad.

"Ads for counterfeits aren't just bad for the real brand holder -- they're bad for users who can end up unknowingly buying sub-standard products, and they're bad for Google too," said Walker.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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