Trademarked Names in Affiliate Domains

A merchant has just asked:

I have an affiliate that just registered “” and is going to start marketing our new [trademark name] product line. Is this acceptable? I know he’s doing marketing for us, however he’s using our trademarked name.

RiskThe intent of the above-quoted affiliate is obvious — to get the traffic which would search specifically for the merchant’s trademarked brand in combination with a popular keyword for the type of product. Keeping in mind that most search engines love keyword-rich domains [see this post and this poll, for example], the above scenario is really no different from trademark bidding in paid search. Just as it is with TM PPC bidding, the merchant should answer the following two simple questions:

  • Does this affiliate marketing method add value?
  • Can it generate incremental business/sales?

If the answer to any of the above two questions is negative, then there is no reason to allow this in your affiliate program. You also want to spell this restriction out in your program’s TOS.

2 thoughts on “Trademarked Names in Affiliate Domains”

  1. This is certainly something that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and if left unchecked will cause more and more problems as the days go by.

    We want our affiliates to contribute to our service in a way that is not competing with us, otherwise we could potentially have thousands of affiliates competing WITH us.

    No point there…

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ron.

    In some instances (e.g. paid search) affiliates will inevitably be competing with the merchants that they promote. However, in these cases they are also competing with the merchants’ competitors (unless, of course, they are exclusively bidding on merchants’ trademarks, URLs and variations/misspellings thereof) which is good for the merchant. The main problem with trademark use in affiliate domains is that its sole goal is to snatch the easy traffic — the people that already know the exact brandname and product type that they want. That traffic would’ve rightfully landed on the merchant’s website anyway.

    What I wonder though is what merchants and affiliate program managers think/enforce in regards to trademarked terms in subdomains, folders, page-specific names. Just published a poll on this here.

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