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In a recent app store update, we've included in our description the names of several brands that we support through functionality in our app. Some if not all of these names are trademarked in the United States, where our company operates.

Google is blocking us from using the names of these brands in our app description on the grounds of trademark violation and a less clear "violation of Policy Coverage" which says that use of popular brands is "considered" when developing a risk profile for a particular app or category of apps.

In the US, there is a concept of "nominative fair use", a legal doctrine which I understand supports the notion of using trademarks to refer to things which otherwise would be impossible to refer to without their trademark name.

We've explained our reasoning in an appeals process but Google isn't budging. Given that Google is running a duopolistic walled garden marketplace, it seems unreasonable that they would not follow US legal precedent. It's not like we can simply walk away from Google Play, as it's virtually the only way to have users install our app.

By contrast, Apple has no such reservations about trademark use in the same manner on their App Store.

Is there anything we can do? Google allows us to submit paperwork which supports our use of trademarks with permission from the trademark holders. In our case this would be exceptionally arduous. Is there perhaps any other proof of rights we could provide which upholds the legality of our trademark usage?

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It's Google's system. You have no "rights" other than those they grant you by contract. You are free to move to another platform if you can find one you prefer. You can ask Google how you can satisfy their policy. That's it.

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  • The same can be said about Epic Games vs. Apple. The question is more whether there's a case to be made here or not.
    – iLoch
    Aug 3 at 17:38
  • I've just said pretty explicitly that I don't think there is a case. But that's from decades in the industry and dealing with rights in other settings; I am not a lawyer.
    – keshlam
    Aug 3 at 17:41
  • Even if there were entitlement in a "walled-garden" ecosystem to avoid certain provisions that may be considered arduous, Android is not a walled garden. Android (unlike iOS) allows apps to be sideloaded, and there are even a couple alternative app stores.
    – Andrew Ray
    Aug 3 at 17:49
  • Thanks guys, appreciate your feedback.
    – iLoch
    Aug 3 at 18:06
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. Aug 3 at 18:18
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Breach of Contract

If Google is not complying with the contract they entered with you, then you have grounds for a suit for breach of contract.

On the face of it, Google seems to be complying with the terms and those terms appear to offer procedural fairness. Unless you can prove that you were not given due process within the contract, you don’t have a case.

Abuse of market power

It’s possible that Google is abusing its market power in denying your app. Regulators in the USA, India, Australia, and Europe are currently thinking that way and some have launched legal action.

If you are willing to spend a lot of money on top flight lawyers, yours could be the test case.

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    If they are applying the same restrictions to all apps, including their own, I suspect a case wouldn't go anywhere. If they are favoring some apps over others, you may have an argument. Seems simpler to just talk to the companies whose trademarks you want to use, tell them that you'd like to feature them in the comparability list but that Google wants to see a letter from them saying that's ok, and use that to break the Google logjam. Unless I'm misunderstanding your situation and Google's concerns.
    – keshlam
    Aug 4 at 0:37
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    @keshlam For what it's worth, Google is not applying these restrictions evenly, not even close. We have competitors who are engaging in behaviour that breaches the terms of service of our mutually supported third party brands. They are using the brand names in ways that erode users' trust. Google doesn't care because the algorithm didn't flag those apps. What we've more or less figured out is our app is in poor standing with some automated risk-assessment process and now whenever we use certain brand names we get auto-flagged. Other new apps don't seem to have this problem.
    – iLoch
    Aug 4 at 23:17

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