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Since 2013 the number and type of web domains has exploded and is having a major impact on brands. Ruth Walters has been watching this new era of growth and can share her insights on brand protection. Ruth focuses on hospitality operations and general intellectual property and technology transactions. Thank you for today’s post, Ruth! - Greg

By now, nearly every revenue manager, electronic distribution manager and sales and marketing manager is familiar with the significance of keywords and the need for brand owners to manage third parties’ use of keywords in search-based Internet marketing. Every negotiation of an online distribution agreement (whether direct-to-consumer, wholesale or otherwise) should include careful consideration about reasonable restrictions or conditions a hotelier will place on a distributor’s use of keywords.

As technology continues to evolve and to disrupt many traditional travel sales, marketing and distribution channels (Tnooz alone seems to report on new search-based tools weekly), owners and operators must reconsider their historical (and by now standard) approaches to critical contract provisions that address how and to what extent a distributor may use the hoteliers’ trademarks, trade names, logos and other intellectual property, including use as keywords. The recent and much publicized launch of Promoted Hotels by Google served as an important reminder of this fact.

Promoted Hotels is Google’s new search-based marketing tool that allows hoteliers, OTAs and anyone else interested in securing a preferred booking position over other channels to bid for the right to be the primary (and sometimes, sole) booking option in ads that appear at the top of the Google Hotel Finder search results. As you might expect, nearly all of the searches that I ran for hotels in various locations across the U.S. featured ads and links placed by OTAs and not the featured properties themselves. Does any of this sound familiar?

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Greg Duff
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Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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