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.
“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”
This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution
(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.
The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.
Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.
There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.
Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.
Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.
Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.
“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”
For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.
Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?
The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.
As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.
And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.
Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.
How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.
“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”
Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.
Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.
Unify your remote team with these important conversations
(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.
Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.
According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.
Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.
Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.
With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.
The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.
Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.
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