October 10, 2008, 12:00 AM

Click Forensics offers tool to help retailers spot trademark infringement

The tool identifies traffic coming from sites that infringe on a retailer’s trademark, such as Findeddiebauer.com, or a domain named derived from a common misspelling of a retailer’s name.

Click Forensics Inc., which audits traffic quality for online advertisers, has rolled out a new product to help brand advertises identify trademark infringement online. The new tool, an extension of its Click Forensics for Advertisers tool set, flags traffic referral sources in a branded retailer’s pay-per-click ad campaigns that represent potential trademark abuse, and reports them to the retailer. The reports include how much these referrals are costing the retailer in click fees.

Online trademark infringement is a growing problem in paid search advertising, according to Paul Pellman, Click Forensics chief executive officer. Perpetrators register domains containing well-known brand names-for example,” Findeddiebauer.com”-and then display ads on them that generate traffic and allow them to collect click fees. Registering common misspellings of a trademarked name so as to collect a click fee on traffic sent from that domain to the retailer’s site is another form of trademark infringement in search advertising, Pellman says

These practices violate the policies of search engines Google and Yahoo, and Pellman says they’re illegal under trademark laws, yet such activity persists. Pellman says one of the online advertisers using the new product in beta found that in the case of one of the major search engines over 50% of what it qualified as poor traffic was from trademark-infringing sites.

“Trademark infringement can count for as much as 10% of the total traffic from the Google content network or the Yahoo publisher network. The bigger the brand, the higher the percentage,” he adds.

Like the company’s product for identifying click fraud from ads on search engine results pages, the new tool gets its data from a retail site’s log files that show URLs of all referring traffic. The tool uses data-mining techniques to spot potential trademark infringers among those referring URLs, and delivers that report daily to the retailer. It also can track what the retailer has paid the search engine for those clicks, thus allowing the retailer not only to flag infringers for action, but also gain evidence to help recover the cost of those clicks from the search engine, Pellman says.

“The impact of trademark infringement in search advertising goes beyond consumer annoyance. It’s affecting the advertising budgets of major brands as they’re forced to spend more money to get the high-quality search traffic that is rightfully theirs,” he adds.

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