Citrix Clamps Down on Partner Advertising Citing 'Trademark Infringement'

If you go to Google and search on the term “Citrix MetaFrame” you'll notice something peculiar—the search results do not contain any “sponsored links.”

If you go to Google and search on the term “Citrix MetaFrame” you'll notice something peculiar—the search results do not contain any “sponsored links.” (Other than the requisite Nextag and Ebay links that are shown no matter what you search on.) Sponsored links are the way that Google makes money. Advertisers create mini ads that are displayed next to the standard results when users search on various keywords. For example, a plumbing repair website might take out an ad that shows up whenever anyone searches for “leaky pipe.”

Sponsored links (called “AdWords” by Google) exist for just about every search phrase imaginable—except for phrases that contain trademarks of Citrix Systems, Inc, including the words “citrix” and “metaframe.”

Spokespersons from Citrix confirmed that they have asked google to restrict ads based on these terms in order to protect their brand. They also said that this is standard practice in the industry and that many companies restrict advertising linked to trademarked terms. However, I haven't personally been able to find an example of it. I performed Google searches for ‘Microsoft Exchange,' ‘Lotus,' ‘IBM,' ‘SCO,' ‘Novell,' ‘Tarantella,' and ‘triCerat.' In every single case there were multiple adwords displayed based on my search containing these companies' respective trademarks, meaning that those companies have not placed restrictions on their trademarked terms. As the head of a prominent Citrix partner told me, "if Microsoft were to adopt this policy then everyone who wrote applications for Windows would no longer be able to put Window in the search list for their AdWords."

Why exactly would Citrix want to restrict people who want to advertise their products when no other company that I could find does this?

Perhaps Citrix is nervous about their market position and wants to control what people see. For example, a competitor to Citrix (such as Tarantella New Moon or Jetro) could take out an ad that says“We're half the price of Citrix” whenever someone searches for “MetaFrame.”

Perhaps Citrix wants to control their brand name and they don't want consumers to be confused by multiple companies' advertisements when someone searches for Citrix. However, would ads like "We're cheaper than Citrix" or "Make Citrix Perform Better" likely to cause consumer confusion? (Actually, someone searching for "citrix" and seeing many ads in addition to their search results would be a testiment to the strength of the Citrix brand.) If Citrix is so concerned about their brand then why do they print their logo on really cheap pens?

Perhaps Citrix feels entitled to be able to do this, thinking that they spent a lot of money to build their trademarks and they don't want third party companies "leeching" off their name. Then again, that's the whole point of the Citrix accessPartner Network and the Citrix technical certifications. After all, every single CCEA-certified person is personally gaining because Citrix has a strong brand. Unfortunately, Citrix's Google restriction prevents these CCEA-certified people and the 7000 accessPartner companies from advertising in this way. (For example, a CCEA-certified individual, despite paying hundreds of dollars for certification, cannot take out an ad for his services based on Google searches for "citrix consultant.")

I personally cannot understand what the value is to Citrix to restrict advertising. In fact, I would think that the opposite would be true; that Citrix would love to have as many people advertising their products as possible. It seems to me that "rogue" advertising is simply a cost of doing business.

What do you think? How have these restrictions affected your company's advertising? Email me with your input . I would imagine that since Citrix seems to be the only company with these restrictions that if enough people emailed them, Citrix would change their policy. Then again, is this even any of our business, or should we (the server-based community at large) simply accept Citrix's restrictive policies regarding their trademarks?

Additional Thoughts

I've been thinking about the mechanics of Citrix's action over the past few days. There is another intereseting point to consider.

Citrix Systems, Inc. is not the exclusive owner of the trademarks “Citrix” or “MetaFrame.” In the United States , trademark law is written so that two products cannot use the same name when consumer confusion may occur. (In fact it does not even prevent one company from leeching off another--it's only about protecting consumers.) However, two completely unrelated products can have the same name and the manufacturer of each product can trademark each one's name in the context of its own market. For example, this is how the Honda Motor Company can have a car model called the “Insight” even though there's a computer company called “Insight.” Since they're completely different markets, consumers won't be confused, so both companies can use the same name.

In this case, the word “citrix” (in addition to being a trademark of Citrix Systems, Inc.) is also trademarked by Mars, Inc. (makers of M&M candies). The word “citrix” is also a trademark of Topix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. It's a line of citrus-based skin care products. Along the same lines, the word “metaframe” is also a trademark of Aquariums Inc, and it's the name of a line of aquarium kits and parts.

So what does this mean? It means that Citrix Systems, Inc. does not have exclusive rights over the words “citrix” and “metaframe.” They only have rights over those two words in the context of computers and technology. However, a visitor to google.com might type in the word “citrix” while looking for skin care products, or “metafarme” while looking for aquarium heaters.

Of course a skin-care company could take out an ad based on a search for "citrix," and people searching for "citrix" in the context of Citrix Systems, Inc. would simply ignore that ad. However, this means that Google has to approve or disprove ads based not just on the keywords, but also on the context of those keywords. Google would have to do this on a case-by-case basis. Is this really something that Google wants to spend it's time doing? In the case of "citrix" it should be easy to figure out if an ad is talking about skin care, candy, or computer software. But what about situations where the brands are more similar, like Campbell's soup and Campbell wine?

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This message was originally posted by Joe Zalewski on April 7, 2004
Brian,
Your article is right on the mark. This has frustrated me for the last couple of months. We are an authorized solutions advisor, last year we started an internet site, www.thinclientpricing.com, dedicated to the thin client environment. Citrix is the driver of the business, we did phenomenal with it, It has generated more opportunities than we could have imagined. Very few of our clients actually just went out to the site and bought without contacting us first. We have generated over 1000 valid leads and sold solutions to nearly 75 companies since we went live with the site in June 2003. We have had more activity in a week than has been generated by Citrix's lead program in 2 years. Since the banned the use of Citrix trademarks on Google we have seen a significant drop in opportunities. My opinion is that if we are a channel partner, we should be able to use the keywords. How else can we attract interest for Citrix Solutions on the internet? I think they need to allow the authorized partners to use the words. Why can't they provide Google with partner names or have a program that allows the partners to ask for authorization? What's next? Banning the use of these words in print and radio ads? My efforts with Citrix so far have produced a "No" across the board.
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This message was originally posted by Mike Taylor on May 8, 2004
I am not a lawyer, but I just finished a business law class at my university, and I learned something interesting that may invalidate Citrix's argument. In other words, I believe that although they asked google to remove the adwords for their product, I don't think they could force Google to do so if the issue went to court. The part at the end of this article where it mentions the person who couldn't advertise himself as a "citrix consultant" shouldn't have a problem either.

The courts have had some rulings on similar cases, setting some precedent for
this line of thinking. For example, in the court case Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Welles, (United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 2002. 279 F.3d 796)

Playboy Enterprises, Inc. ("PEI") holds trademarks "Playboy", "Playmate" and
"Playmate of the Year". Terri Welles was a self-employed model and spokesperson who was feature as the "Playmate of the Year" in June 1981. She maintained a website name "Terri Welles--Playmate of the Year 1981" and included meta tags so search engines could pick up on her keywords, "Playmate of the Year". The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Welles' favor, saying in the court brief, "Searchers would have a much more difficult time locating relevant websites if they could do so only by correctly guessing the long phrases necessary to substitute for trademarks. We can hardly expect someone searching for Welles' site to imagine phrase...to describe Welles without referring to Playboy--'the nude model selected by Mr. Hefner's organization...'. Yet if someone could not remember her name, that is what they would have to do. Similarly, someone searching for critiques of Playboy on the Internet would have a difficult time if INeternet sites could not list the object of their critique in their metatags."

They also gave a test to show where use of a trademark was allowed without
authorization:
"First, the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable
without use of the trademark; second, only so much of the mark or marks may be
used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service; and third,
the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest
sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder."

I hope this is useful to someone.
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This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on October 12, 2004
I guess they changed their mind. Links show up now!
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