How to use the trademarked term "iPhone" in a Google Ad?


Let's say I developed a program for iPhone (which I sort of did) and want to advertise it through AdWords. Currently, Google lets you use the term "iPhone" in the keyword list, but doesn't allow using it in the ad body. The ad is pretty innocent:

Sci calculator for iPhone

High precision scientific calculator

for iPhone. Free trial.

Google automatically warns me that I cannot use the term "iPhone" in the ad, because it is trademarked. Now, that's certainly wrong, because one can freely use a trademarked term when describing product compatibility. There is a checkbox saying I can send the ad for review by the Google staff, but whenever I click it, the ad eventually returns as "disapproved".

What are the ways around it? How to contact someone sane enough in Google to review the ad? I also heard that it's possible to obtain permission from Apple to use the term "iPhone" for ads (some restrictions would apply). Being a registered iPhone developer this might not be a problem. But then again, where do I submit the permission in Google?

Adwords Google Iphone Trademark

asked Feb 3 '10 at 19:43
Oleg Kokorin
459 points

3 Answers


There's a reason why, in fact, it's not wrong for Google:

You can use trademarks in your own writing for various things. The liability is on you as to whether it's acceptable in trademark law.

Google is in the position of taking your copy and putting on their property, but then they're potentially liable. Surely they cannot address all the international fair-use and trademark-specific terms of service for all these trademarks, so of course they just blanket refuse to include them.

Note that even in your question you're not sure whether it's legal! You say it's OK to use it when talking about compatability, but you say Apple needs to license it for use in an ad.

Maybe you can fake it with "i Phone" or "i-Phone" or "eye-Phone." Maybe you can go even softer with "mobile app" and hope people get it. I admit these are weaker, but maybe it gets you going again?

answered Feb 4 '10 at 11:14
16,231 points
  • Interestingly enough though, if you go search for "iphone" or "iphone apps" or something, there are a bunch of paid links on the side that use iPhone in the title, so not sure why some get through and some don't. – Frederick Cook 14 years ago
  • Google is not that stupid. :-) They don't allow "i Phone" and "i-Phone" either. I do know that it's legal to use word "iPhone" describing compatibility. I've had disputes with lawyers from Microsoft and some other companies already. The "license" from Apple might help to simplify things with Google. I heard people do it. There are Google ads with "iPhone" in the ad copy, but those almost always are ads to sell them iPhones, not apps or cases, or whatever accessories they got. – Oleg Kokorin 14 years ago
  • When you say "they surely cannot address all the international" - well, they surely have. In fact, they have specific rules for different countries, and their automatic trademark checker does distinguish what countries you set the ads to show up for. For example, they don't let using trademarked words in the keyword list for some countries, while they let for others (luckily that includes US). They have other more subtle differences too. – Oleg Kokorin 14 years ago
  • OK, fair enough! I concede that Google is perhaps able to address those things, but still you can understand why they need to err on the side of safety for themselves. – Jason 14 years ago
  • +1 Great answer. – Thom Pete 14 years ago


Interesting that they would do this sort of thing. It's pretty easy to use a trademarked name since all you need to do is state who owns the trademark. For example, if I use iPhone, then I have to say it's a trademark of Apple.

I am sure the complication lies in that Google does not want to have to put all these disclaimers onto every single ad. So, maybe they are just lazy.

One thing to try, if allowed, is to put iPhone(TM) or something similar. That would show that it's a trademark and it should be legal but maybe not Google legal.

answered Feb 8 '10 at 23:56
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points


You can try and use the "appstore" as your reference. It's not as strong but it might be stronger than not doing it.

"Get it in the appstore"

answered Feb 9 '10 at 00:21
Thom Pete
1,296 points

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