Best PracticesOpinions & Advice

Trademark your dealership’s name?


I am a new Internet Sales Manager for Don Elliott Autoworld. When I started in Dec. the department was not performing. I have managed to turn things around and last month I sold 30% of the dealerships sales. I am always trying to find ways to to something better.

My question that I have is; our dealers name is being bought by several of our competitors and companies such as Dealix and so forth. I have been trying to do some research on getting a Trademark or Service Mark on the Name Don Elliott. My dealer feels that I can do it and that there is no need for legal assistance.

I have investigated the process for this and I am wondering if this even help? Should or can I Trademark the phrase Don Elliott Wharton TX. Does it matter if I included the town and state or should it just be the Owners Name?

If you could please help or give some guidance.


Heather Koudela

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
  • E
    Ethan Giffin
  • August 1, 2006

Jeff is dead on... Studies have shown for Google that searchers are 3x more likely to click on the 'organic' listing vs. the 'paid' listing. That being said reasearch has also shown that in many instances a good paid listing can uplift the traffic to your organic by xxx%.

As Jeff stated there are links at both Yahoo and Google to report people infringing on your trademark. A simple cease and desist letter can work too from your corporate attorny. If your dealership is unwilling to spend on legal resources to protect its name, then do it yourself. Buy a formatted letter (all over google - do a search) and send it certified mail, return reciept. For extra bang for the buck add ", esq" to the end of your name.

This is something that you should regularly monitor - as new adds pop up all the time.
Actually, I think you'll find that Google and Yahoo differ significantly on this issue. Yahoo will not permit trademarked terms to be purchased as keywords. Google does permit this, but will not permit them to be used in ads. Since Google increasingly dominates searches, that effectively means that at present a trademark does not offer the kind of protection we're talking about here.

This is different in Europe, and I believe (I'm not a lawyer!) that litigation continues in this country.

I think Jeff is absolutely right about keyword ads that focus on a particular dealer. Waste of money. Brand and city are much more likely to be productive.
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    Jeff Kershner
  • January 28, 2007
<p>Heather, that's a great question. <br />
<br />
I'm not one too qualified to answer the legalities of this issue. I do know
other dealers and 3rd party lead vendors are practicing this all over the search
engines. I have the same thing happening to me as well. Having our towns name in
our dealer name makes it near impossible to prevent others from running ads
using your dealers name as keywords. <br />
<br />
As for your case, I would think that you could get your dealers name trademarked
and if anyone was buying your trademarked name, you could have their ad removed.
Remember though...if someone types in your dealers name, be sure you have a
strong hold on your natural listing results. Most of your customers are going to
look in this area anyways. I personally think that if someone types in your
dealers name...they are looking specifically for you and those PPC ads become
irrelevant. I'm not saying you could loose a click here and there but I doubt it
would be anything near significant. <br />
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If anyone reading this has any advice for Heather, please participate with your
thoughts and comments.</p>

Hi Heather (and Jeff),

My personal opinion is that trademarking your dealership's name will not do any good. Just perform a Google search for Burger King and see what I mean. Sponsored results appear from Subway, Wendy's and Taco Bell! The airlines tried to prevent this kind of thing back in the beginning of the online travel sites, they wanted to keep expedia and others from bidding on their rightful names in an effort to generate sales...they were not successful. Hope this helps!

Tim Morris
  • R
    Randy Cole
  • August 14, 2007
Having previously worked for a company that had 4 dedicated trademark and copyright lawyers working in it's legal department (and working for me on web issues), it was our understanding that, currently, there is no protection for you in regards to people using "variations" of your trademarked name. It is understood that they cannot use your business name directly, which would come under the laws and statutes regarding Fraud. But they can get very close to mimicking you, without legal consequences coming into play.

If your company is ABC, Denver for example (officially registered with the state) and you have done interstate commerce, as well as owning and maintaining a web presence under, again having done interstate business, then you CAN go after people who use your name for any web site outside of your state. I only bring that up because two different businesses may have the same name in two different states. So you may find adwords and keywords in other parts of the US that are using "your" name.

You CANNOT (not until the laws change) stop them from using your companies name for ads, keywords etc., as your businesses name is a publicly used/displayed name. That is, Joe and his wife talk about ABC all the time on the street, using the companies name in conversation. Your company name is listed in directories, lists and maybe even on blogs that say deragotory things about you. You can't do anything about it - unless it is proven that the statements are blatant lies meant to harm your business.

In like fashion, others outside of your company have every right to use variations of your companies name for a new web site - one called (we bought several of those to keep them from the competition), for example, or any other derivitive of your name. If you don't want those names to be used, then you have to buy the domain names yourself to block them from being used. Been down that road for months with our lawyers - I know what I'm talking about!

What you CAN do, and many businesses underestimate the power of this concept, is simply hold to the high road, make your business and web site the very best it can be, and outshine everything else out there that would misuse your name. Even blogs or forums - if they say something bad about you, you cannot have it "erased" but you have every right to post a well thought out, balanced retort.

One company I know of in one city even contacted the competition and started a dialogue about taking the high road and asked if they could all agree not to use the other businesses name(s). They agreed and have not had that problem anymore.

Don't fret about sleezy practices on the web (liek the competition using your keywords) - it will eventually all come out in the open and lose it's bite. Just do your best to serve your customers, giving them absolute top notch service and respect, and all that other stuff really will diminish and become unimportant.
Hope that helps.