By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

THE United Kingdom search market has been thrown into turmoil by Google’s decision to change its AdWords trademark policy and allow rival companies to bid on each other’s brands – a decision that generated such controversy it was covered on the TV news.

The UK previously had a policy similar to the one that exists in Australia (which there are no current plans to change, according to Google Australia) where major brands can apply for trademark to prevent others from capitalising on their popularity.

Study after study has shown that well-known companies get more traffic from searches on their brand than any other keywords. So the UK change, which is being keenly watched in Australia, has had massive implications.

For some companies like Thomas Cook, a brand founded more than 150 years before Google even existed, it has meant enacting a zero tolerance policy, so far ending five relationships with ‘partners’ bidding on brands associated with its companies.

Other companies like are threatening to sue Google, although the US search giant says there is nothing they can do and that the change was made to benefit consumers,

"It is not something we are doing because we believe people will have to pay more for their trademark terms," Matt Brittin, head of Google UK, told Channel 4 News.

But the boss of Lastminute, Ian McCaig, who no doubt already spends millions of punds advertising with Google, reckons it’s a cynical money grab designed to drive click inflation.

There’s evidence of this already occurring with major brands – which previously never had to bid on their own name – now forced to pay for something they once got for free to ensure top paid spot under their own name.

"It’s ironic that Google, always quick to defend its own trademark, would make such a move," McCaig told Travel Trends: May 22, 2008

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