Posting this for my own notes but it can't hurt to share. Policies at major search engines on allowing bidding for trademarked keywords range widely, with at least one having no stated policy. Here's a rundown:
Google Inc. Policy: Had limited the bidding on trademarked keywords upon request of trademark holder; within next several weeks, will no longer do so, but won't allow the use of trademarked terms within the ad itself. Also bans critical ads. Comment: Says it is changing its policy to better serve users with relevant ads; observers say the move will generate more revenue for the search engine
Yahoo Inc. Policy: Allows bidding, but screens for editorial relevance Comment: Will investigate complaints from trademark holders, but allows bidding if ad makes clear what the company does
MSN Policy: Sells retail brands (e.g. Sears) only to the retailer; sells manufacturer brands, like Sony, to the manufacturer or to retailers. Policy differs for brand names that are also generic terms; for instance, would sell "amazon" to Amazon.com but also to an online travel site selling trips to the Amazon region. Comment: Yahoo supplies some of MSN's paid listings, but MSN also sells some listings directly.
FindWhat.com Policy: Allows bidding, but screens for editorial relevance Comment: "Pepsi is allowed to bid on Coke, just as Pepsi uses Coke's trademark in its TV commercials," says Phillip Thune, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
Lycos Inc. Policy: Reviews ads for relevance and generally doesn't allow bidding on a competitor's trademark Comment: Competitors typically "don't have content relevant to that trademark," says Adam Soroca, who runs the ad-bidding system for searches on lycos.com, hotbot.com and other sites
Kanoodle Inc. Policy: Doesn't allow advertisers to bid on trademarked terms they don't own Comment: "An advertiser bidding on listings through Kanoodle must either sell, or provide substantive information on, products linked to that listing on their Web sites," says Lance Podell, president of Kanoodle.
My Source: WSJ.com, WSJ Source: the companies