Connect with us

Business News

Realtor gets cease & desist for another agent’s listing in IDX

We have obtained a copy of a cease and desist letter sent to a single Realtor for alleged trademark violations committed by his featuring another agent’s listing through his IDX. This is not the first issue of its kind in recent months.

Published

on

website listing

realtor listing

Trademark violations are serious business

Imagine you wake up tomorrow and a sign pops up on offices down the street from your house, and the sign reads your company’s name, only it isn’t your company, it is your competitor who has started to use your name and logo. That sure can confuse the marketplace.

But imagine that you’re a real estate professional and you feature all local MLS listings on your website through IDX, even if they’re not yours, and you get a letter from a lawyer claiming that an agent’s listing that appears on your site is your using someone else’s trademark to promote your company, and there are now allegations of confusion in the marketplace. Which is confusing in itself. Then imagine that you do a quick search for the listing and find that there are over 3,000 results online for the exact same listing, but there have not been over 3,000 cease and desist letters.

This is exactly what happened to Frank Llosa, Esq., Broker of Frankly Real Estate. Llosa recently received a cease and desist letter threatening action if he did not remove the listing of another broker, incorrectly advertising the trademarked term “Leisure World,” a listing that mentions the term in the property description of a building of condos in Maryland.

Llosa tells AGBeat that he was “flattered” that his “search engine optimization must be working well” that his website topped the search engine results, but noted that in his own search online for the specific listing, over 3,000 websites resulted.

Confusion in how real estate data is displayed

Over email to the lawyer that sent him the cease and desist letter, Llosa said, “Your issue may be with Weichert Realtors. They are the listing brokerage firm selling Leisure World units in MD. They posted the home on the MLS with the MLS #MC7774082. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. This data is then sent out to over 3,000 websites who are cooperating brokers. You just happened to contact me, as one of htose [sic] 3,000. I have nothing to do with Weichert, and I have nothing to do with Leisure World. If you feel that all 3,000 are in violation, you can FEDEX them a cease and desist letter as well. Here is a link.”

Llosa continued with suggestions of other entities the lawyer could contact, “Including Zillow, a public company [link to listing here] Trulia [link to listing here] and 3048 others. You could also contact MRIS, which is the local MLS data aggregator and distributor. Or you can contact the National Association of Realtors that overseas [sic] many of the 3,050 possible violators. They will also tell you that the websites displaying this information are not at fault. You need to go to the source. See the result of this lawsuit to better understand how it all works.”

Not the first lawsuit of its kind

As Llosa referenced, this is not the first lawsuit of its kind, as a fair housing lawsuit was recently dismissed against an agent whose website featured another agent’s listing through an IDX system which featured a fair housing violation.

UPDATE: According to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS) rules, under these circumstances, agents may not modify listings. “Article XXII- INTERNET POLICY Sec. 3 Principal Broker Subscribers and their affiliated licensees and Appraisers may not modify listing information (such as list price, lot size, postal city, etc.) from another Principal Broker Subscriber’s listings. MLS data may be augmented with additional data not otherwise prohibited from display so long as the source of the other data is clearly identified.”

We have reached out to Leisure World’s counsel for comment and requested more information pertaining to their investigation, who else has received cease and desist letters, what they believe damages are, and what course of action they believe any of the 3,000+ individual website owners and agents have in a scenario when they cannot edit an IDX feed, and have not received a response as of publication. Their response will be published here upon reception.

Click to enlarge cease and desist letter; full text is typed out below the image:
cease and desist

“Dear Mr. Llosa:

We represent RRLH, Inc. (“RRLH”), the owner of the famous and incontestable LEISURE WORLD (U.S. Reg. No. 809,677), Globe with Leisure World design (U.S. Reg. No. 809,679), and Globe with birds design (U.S. Reg. No. 1,657,718) trademarks (herein, “Leisure World marks”).

It has come to our attention that, among other things, you are using the Leisure World marks to advertise your real estate business on your website “franklymls.com” in connection with efforts to market Villa Cortese V. Please see the attached printouts of the website with the uses highlighted. You have no rights to the “Leisure World” name. Your use of the Leisure World marks violates trademark laws, and is immediately actionable.

There is an overwhelming danger that your use of the Leisure World marks in your advertisements will cause consumers to be deceived into believing that you are affiliated with our client and/or that our client and its authorized licensees are affiliated with your site and/or endorse the products, services, organizations, or viewpoints featured or advertised on your site. Creating this kind of consumer confusion in the marketplace is prohibited by federal law, inter alia, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1); 15 U.S.C. 1125(a); and 15 U.S.C. 1125(c).

We hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from all use of the highly recognized and valuable Leisure World marks, including ceasing use of the Leisure World marks in your advertisements. We expect a written confirmation from you regarding these matters no later than May 28, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you or your attorney should contact me at (949) 723-4844.

Nothing in this letter shall be deemed a waiver of any rights, remedies or defenses of RRLH, all of which are expressly reserved, including the right to seek monetary damages for trademark infringement.

Very truly yours,
Richard M. Sherman”

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Ed Neuhaus

    May 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    not good. I hope this does not get out of hand.

  2. Gary Little

    May 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Good on Frank for responding to this nonsense lawsuit with just the right degree of sarcasm. Nice boilerplate letter from Sherman, though. Wonder how much he charged his client for sending it. I also wonder if they realize Frank is also a lawyer and can see through these intimidating tactics with ease.

  3. Vicki Moore

    May 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    famous and incontestable?

  4. Michael Erdman

    May 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention Tara.

    Frank should be commended for maintaining his wit and sense of humor after receiving this seemingly misguided cease and desist letter.

    A word of caution though. Unlike the case with Jeff Launiere in Florida, the allegedly actionable content here relates to a purported trademark. The protection offered by the federal Communications Decency Act, 47 USC 230, generally excludes intellectual property claims. So while to those in the know, Frank’s “conduct” here seems (and truly is) just as innocuous as Jeff’s, Frank should proceed cautiously.

    That said, while it’s understandable Mr. Sherman’s client is acting to police its trademark, it probably could not have picked a worse (or more inappropriate) target here in Mr. Llosa and his website. If it should be targeting anyone, it should be the listing broker and/or its client.

    Michael Erdman
    Teeple Leonard & Erdman Attorneys at Law

  5. Chuck Rifae

    May 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Its all about educating the public( and real estate professionals). The general public has no idea what happens behind the curtain well call syndication. The more folks that write about being “Zillowed” the more the public will learn.

  6. Maureen McCabe

    May 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

    What is Leisure World? Is the property in the MLS related to that famous and incontestable business? Or are those two words strung together in a description? If the listing agent is using the words to indicate a famous and incontestable ??? it would be easy enough to get the source to make a correction and cease and desist.

  7. Saul Klein

    May 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Hi Tara – You mention syndication, but this appears to be an IDX issue. We don’t usually use the term syndication to describe IDX. They have come to represent dramatically different license arrangements in the industry. It is my experience that the major portals are approached when copyright owners believe they have a cause of action. At Point2, for about 6 months, we were receiving a number of requests for payment from Getty Images.

  8. franklyrealty

    May 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for the support. The interesting thing is that the MRIS (the local MLS) rules and regulations specifically forbid me from editing the content of another broker’s listings. So what is one to do?

    Michael, they sent a letter to three total places. I was one. One was the listing agent, and my guess is the 3rd was the listing broker, but I am not sure. It should have gone also to MRIS.

    I did put them on notice that according to his definition of a violation of the trademark, there were 3,000 violators (actually maybe more like 2,000). So if he would in theory now have to write to all 3,000 to protect his TM.

    Gary, yes he knew I was a lawyer.

    Frank
    @FranklyRealty

    • Michael Erdman

      May 10, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks for the extra info, Frank. Because you received a letter and not a summons, I’m somewhat optimistic this will get cleared up once counsel and his client get up to speed.

      If you are comfortable saying so, does your MLS (or perhaps, indirectly, its participants) contractually indemnify you for claims pertaining to the contents of other participants’ listings?

      Michael Erdman
      Teeple Leonard & Erdman Attorneys at Law

  9. Wayne Fenstermacher

    May 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Where do you see the “Leisure World marks”? I don’t see a globe and birds – even in the photos – unless I just didn’t notice, but I did look carefully just in case there was a sign (other than the one with the “Villa Cortese” on it.

  10. tobyboyce

    May 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    This is different than the typical Zillow discussion in many ways, it was just exasperated and made clearer due to the zillow factor. How many times have you taken a picture of the sign on a condo unit as a way to market the property and a point of reference?

    I’ve done it. The condo association owns the trademarks associated with its condo names and if it chooses it can enforce it to defend itself. Now, most of them are pro-home owner enough that they understand the process of getting a home sold and what the goal is from taking the photograph.

    However, in this case the big company that owns the association is policing its trademark and logos and doesn’t want it used in that manner. Due to the process and how the real estate IDX works, it would be surprising if Frank has any further issues.

    However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the listing broker and listing agent are not required to make adjustments and then to verify that these adjustments have been made.

    And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Do you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business News

Reopening the nation: Best done by sector or calendar?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Analysis suggests reopening economies in phases in each country. How will we find harmony between economic, epidemiological, and political leaders?

Published

on

reopening the country

After months indoors Americans are eager to reopen the economy. The United States has experimented with a series of stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and quarantines (the difference between these strategies being geographical and frankly, not always clear). However, the movement to stay home started with closed borders and reduced travel, and gradually became more restrictive as America fell in step behind other countries just in time to become the world’s hotspot for coronavirus infections.

After fraught disagreement between economists, scientists, and politicians, only a few things are certain to date: the economy has collapsed, 30 million people have lost jobs, more than 1.6 million people have been infected, and nearly 100,000 people have died as of this writing.*

Conversations have shifted from saving lives to saving both lives and livelihoods. Economists are making the case that a contracted economy magnifies health risks, and therefore potential mortality unrelated to or complementary to COVID-19 deaths. As such, it is time to consider various strategies for reopening the economy as a public health strategy not independent of hygienic and other measures.

Seven mostly friendly-looking suited-up white dudes from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland have analyzed a series of reopening strategies for the world to consider at this confusing, scary, and still uncertain juncture of how to proceed with defibrillating closed economies worldwide.

They concluded that a phased reopening by sector would balance the need to stimulate economic activity while minimizing epidemiological risk. They suggest that the order of sectors to reopen in each country should be chosen based on their inability to conduct core business from home, importance to the national economy, value added per worker, and business viability. You can read their full argument and the other strategies they evaluated here.

“This strategy has the virtue of being adaptive — as data is gathered following each sector-wide reopening, adjustments can be made concerning the timing of subsequent phases, and protective measures adopted in previously released sectors can be copied and improved as more is learned about the epidemic,” the team said.

The United States has already begun a regional reopening approach where Trump conceded that the states would determine their own reopening plans in phases. This strategy has already caused tension between states and municipalities (for example as between the large state of Texas and its highly populated capitol Austin).

Though the HBR argument is compelling, again, we find ourselves at a frustrating clash of experts in their fields. No matter how the economy is reopened, an increase in infections is likely if not inevitable as soon as more people return to a high-contact lifestyle – a point that scientists and epidemiologists have emphasized heavily. It also gives no mention of the role of testing and tracking the spread of the disease, and the path to population-level immunity whether by herd or vaccine.

Furthermore, this economic approach appears not to consider complementary supply chains and the interconnectedness of local, national, and global economies. Limiting travel was a key factor in slowing the spread and allowing control to become more localized, but much of the economy relies on the movement of people and things across communities.

Unfortunately, these decisions are ultimately made at the policy level. The United States government has proven itself incapable of a united approach to stemming the severity of this disease. Vaccines are in development, but it seems likely that when one is selected and approved for mass distribution, the decision will also be a political one. All of these considerations are ones Americans should bring to the ballot box in November. Or rather – to the mailbox with an absentee ballot, if we don’t manage to completely destroy our democracy between now and then.

*Such statistics, though widely cited, may be underreported or misrepresentative of the whole picture, as we learned about artificially deflated test rates in Texas last week.

Continue Reading

Business News

Survey indicates that small businesses are optimistic despite COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook survey captures tumult of spring 2020 on small and medium business, with a dash of optimism going into the summer.

Published

on

small businesses logo

This story contains information that probably will not evoke shock and awe by now, but is nonetheless upsetting. Stop now and check to see if you need a news cycle break before ingesting more garbage depressive news about the economy – but if you can wade through it, I promise it ends on a high note!

Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is running amuck in the political world like one of those signs at restaurants that say “unattended children will be given ice cream and a puppy,” Facebook continues to effectively build an online community of more than 2.6 billion people worldwide – including more than half of the population in the United States. Given their audience and ease of access to business owners, they decided to use their powers for good for once to survey small and medium businesses.

The survey returned responses from 38,078 business owners and managers, 39,104 employees, and 8,694 personal enterprises in the United States (total of 85,876 respondents). Respondents’ industries spanned manufacturing, retail, services, logistics, hospitality, construction, and agriculture. Thirty-three percent of businesses were urban, forty-two percent were urban, and twenty-five percent were rural.

Here’s where it gets depressing: thirty-one percent of businesses reported closing in the last three months, with 71 percent of those closing since March 1. For personal businesses, 52 percent are closed. Of those businesses still operating, 60 percent reported a reduced workload, and 60 percent also report struggling with finances. Employee wages, bills, and rent were the top areas of financial concern.

So how is this important segment of the economy surviving the crisis? Forty-one percent of business owners and managers said they could pull from personal savings, but 45 percent said zero-interest loans were the most helpful option to subsidize lost business.

Unsurprisingly, 79% of businesses say they have made some change to operations to accommodate their customers and keep things moving, like using digital tools and delivery services.

The survey found some interesting geographical differences, for example, that businesses in the Southeast have made slightly more physical adjustments to business like offering curbside pickup and home delivery. They also found differences in strategy by leadership gender: “Businesses led by women are more likely to be using digital tools, particularly with online advertising (43%) and digital payment tools (40%), compared to just 37% and 34%, respectively, of businesses led by men.” And the differences don’t stop at the strategic level. More women owner-managers (33%) reported that managing life in a pandemic at home was affecting their ability to focus on work than men (25%).

Amongst all the chaos, people are optimistic about the future. In fact, 57% of owner-managers are optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future of business. For employees, the results were surprisingly similar. Even though only 45% of SMB owner-managers and 32% of personal businesses reported that they would rehire the same workers when their businesses reopened, 59% of both the employed and unemployed were at least somewhat optimistic about their future employment.

And now for a quote from President Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire Primary speech amidst our last recession, without a smidge of tacky irony or liberal preaching: “We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: ‘Yes we can.’”

Continue Reading

Business News

Who will get to work from home once COVID-19 stay-home orders are over?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Many large tech firms review and update their work from home policies. This could be presented as THE biggest work perk of 2021.

Published

on

work from home

The large tech firms that we all know and use frequently are making big announcements on their timing and policies for their employees to work from home as updates on COVID-19 come in.

Square and Twitter have said many employees will work from home indefinitely – even after states begin to open back up. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have all extended dates on returning to offices. You can read more details here on The Verge.

Let’s break down some pros and cons – especially if this means that working from home will become the hottest recruiting tool in the future. Like ping pong tables and Friday at 4pm beer carts once were.

Some high-level things that contribute to why people love (or tolerate) their W2 jobs:

  • They like the PEOPLE they work with
  • They have a feeling of purpose, and genuinely enjoy the work
  • There are miscellaneous perks (gym membership reimbursement, free cafeterias, personal development workshops, tuition reimbursement, travel opportunities)
  • Their employer helps to pay for healthcare benefits, and makes 401K contributions
  • Their team rotates, and they get to work from home once in a while*

*This is nice to allow some flexibility. Employees can choose to treat their morning how they would like (maybe wake up a little later, or enjoy their coffee at a coffee shop). It allows them to not rush out the door to sit in traffic, or on the bus or train. They can take the day off of wearing real pants, and work in pajamas. Heck, they can even save time on Saturday or Sunday by doing the laundry on their work from home (WFH) day. It could also be a great opportunity to fit in doctor appointments, or have real quality focus time – missing less of the work day.

This is NOT an implication that people work less that day, in fact working from home, you usually work more because there are not things that force you to break up the day like the commute, meetings, or lunch with your colleagues.

Some high-level things that might contribute to the desire to be an entrepreneur:

  • Your work is a main piece of your identity – usually being a product or service that YOU created, and it leverages a perfect marriage of your talents, skills, and passions
  • You likely get to be your own boss, and make your own creative decisions
  • You constantly have the opportunity to learn, and this can be great for those who love the constant change and challenges
  • It’s just never really worked out for you to work for someone else, or for a corporation
  • Something drives you to build something of your own
  • Working from home* in all its glory

*A common misconception of the entrepreneurship or freelance lifestyle is that you work from home or a coffee shop, and it’s oh so very sexy and freeing, and you get to do whatever you want whenever you want. While arguably, yes, you do have more control over your schedule, and there are perks to your own business; likely you are working 24/7, and wearing every single hat from the Producer to Customer Services to Finance to the Accounting department. This requires you to be really open to learning or knowing what you don’t know, and possibly hiring experts.

So, moving forward, will the “you can work remotely! From wherever you’d like” become the hottest recruiting trend of 2021? Here’s why we predict that may not be the best way to move forward.

  1. People are social creatures. Working from home sporadically vs 100% of the time are two completely different things. You could possibly lose the momentum with your teams if they no longer know and trust one another. Plus, no doubt there will be turn-over, and when there are numerous parts and teams, it can be helpful for them to have in person experiences together.
  2. Does this make sense for the commercial real estate industry, and the leases that have been signed? It’s unlikely that many large corporations just perfectly timed their leases that align with COVID-19. Many will likely want to bring people back just for that fact.
  3. All of this takes an enormous amount of money, additional tech support, and infrastructure, (not to mention mailing costs for all office equipment, etc.) and it’s not possible that only the most profitable firms will prevail and be able to do this.
  4. How would large cities (read: high cost of living) like the Bay Area be able to retain talent, and/or why would you pay to live there if you can live anywhere. This could drastically shift urban planning and development.

We just don’t see it moving all the way to the extreme of all knowledge workers working from home indefinitely. If you want to see how people are feeling about working from home, you have to check out this Buzzfeed article, “Zoom Fatigue is Real, And You Probably Have It If You Relate to These 16 Tweets.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!