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Could RE/MAX lose their long-held trademark on red, white, and blue?

(Business News) RE/MAX has long defended their red-over-white-over-blue trademark, but a judge has agreed to hear an argument that could cancel the trademark altogether.

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RE/MAX’s lock on red white and blue

When a company is approved for a trademark, they typically defend it with vigor, especially when they are a large, world-renowned brand like RE/MAX looking to avoid any confusion in the marketplace. It would be ignorant not to.

For decades, RE/MAX has defended their red-over-white-over-blue trademark, sending cease and desist letters to any brokerage they discover using signage with their trademarked red-white-blue combo.

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Upon receiving a letter from RE/MAX letter, most parties invest the money to change all of their signage, often out of fear of the threat of a lawsuit, but others fight back.

Trend Setter Realty lost, despite a last minute argument

In 2009, in the U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas, Trend Setter Realty lost their battle against RE/MAX, as the court reaffirmed RE/MAX’s protected trademark under state and federal law. RE/MAX successfully argued that in a consumer study comparing the two signs, 25 percent of those surveyed believed Trend Setter Realty was affiliated with RE/MAX because of similarities in their signage.

It is rumored that last minute, Trend Setter Realty’s lawyers invoked the mysterious Lanham Act, which states that any mark that consists of or comprises the flag of any foreign nation cannot be registered as a trademark. It is said that the judge threw out the argument as a last minute stunt.

Judge is currently reviewing the Lanham Act in a case

In an active case brought by RE/MAX against Matt Jones and FavoriteAgent.com, after several years of back and forth between the two companies for Jones’ use of red-over-white-over-blue in his signage, a judge has surprisingly agreed to hear the Lanham Act/Netherlands Flag argument, despite throwing out other portions of Jones’ argument.

Jones compares RE/MAX’s trademark against the flag of the Netherlands, asserting that the two are identical and the trademark should never have been granted to the company, according to the Lanham Act. In his blog, he asks readers to determine which is the Netherlands flag and which is the RE/MAX trademark, implying that there is confusion (the same argument RE/MAX is using regarding his use of the color combo in his signage):

lanham act

According to the Act, “In any action involving a registered mark the court may determine the right to registration, order the cancellation of registrations, in whole or in part, restore canceled registrations, and otherwise rectify the register with respect to the registrations of any party to the action. Decrees and orders shall be the court to the Director, who shall make appropriate entry upon the records of the Patent and Trademark Office, and shall be controlled thereby.”

This is not a new battle, but the fight could soon end

RE/MAX has defended their trademark against brokers small and large, and has even sued CBS for featuring a real estate sign in a CSI episode that was too similar to their trademark, and gone after eBay for using a sign similar to theirs in a commercial that could lead viewers with the impression that “RE/MAX typically engages in the sale of homes that are in disrepair.”

Commenters on Jones’ blog posts have chimed in with their own experiences, and one source tells us that they’ve even received a cease and desist letter for using two dark colored bars separated by a white bar in the center, even though it used neither red, nor blue.

RE/MAX is being called a bully by some and defended by others for smart business. A handful of brokers have asserted they’re considering a class action case, likely based on the outcome of Jones’ case. Many have opined that they understand the validity of the hot air balloon trademark, but something as vague as red white and blue alludes them, as they often use the colors to celebrate the American flag without a second thought about competing with RE/MAX, much less confusing consumers.

Others have tried this argument, and no judge has considered hearing it before (likely because the Netherlands flag comes up last minute after a loss is already apparent), but if this judge agrees that the Lanham Act nullifies RE/MAX’s logo based on the identical Netherlands flag, a decades-old argument disallowing the use of red white and blue bars on real estate signs could come to an abrupt end.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Rich Jacobson

    March 26, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Hey, if it can happen to Zebra’s, it can happen to the Red, White, and Blue!

    • Chris Johnson

      March 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Can you imagine a less ethical person than that Lones chick?

  2. LifeDontWasteIt

    May 22, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    So should we change the Stars and Stripes Forever to “Three cheers for the Re…

    max colors?”
    I don’t think so…

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What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.

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Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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Technology that may help you put the “human” back in Human Resources

(BUSINESS NEWS) Complicated application processes and disorganized on-boarding practices often dissuade the best candidates and cause new hires to leave. Sora promises to help with this.

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Even in a booming economy, finding the right applicant for a role can be a drawn-out, frustrating experience for both the candidate and the hiring manager. Candidates submitting their resume to an automated HR system, designed to “seamlessly” integrate candidates into their HRIS accounts, face the interminable waiting game for feedback on whether they’re going to be contacted at all.

Ironically, this lack of feedback on where a candidate stands (or even if the resume was received at all) and a propensity for organizations to list roles as “Open Until Filled”, overwhelms the hiring manager under a mountain of resumes, most of which will not be reviewed unless there is a keyword match for the role. And if they do somehow manage to see the resume, studies indicate that in less than 10 seconds, they’ll have moved on to the next one.

The problems don’t end there, however. Once the candidate and hiring manager have found one another, and the HR team has completed the hire, the dreaded phase of onboarding begins. During the first few days of a new job, a lack of effective onboarding procedures—ranging from simple tasks like arranging for technology or introductions to a workplace mentor—can be the cause of a significant amount of employee turnover. Forbes notes that 17% of all newly hired employees leave their job during the first 90 days, and 20% of all staff turnover happens within the first 45 days.

The reason, according to Laura Del Beccaro, Founder of startup Sora, is that overworked HR teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to follow up with all of those who are supposed to interact with the new employee to ensure a seamless transition experience. Focusing on building a template-based system that can be integrated within the frameworks of multiple HRIS systems, Sora’s focus is to set up adaptable workflow processes that don’t require the end-user to code, and can be adjusted to meet the needs of one or many employee roles.

In a workplace that is becoming increasingly virtual, out of practicality or necessity, having the ability to put the “human” back in Human Resources is a focus that can’t be ignored. From the perspective of establishing and expanding your team, it’s important to ensure that potential employees have an application experience that respects their time and talent and feedback is provided along the way, even when they might not be a fit for the role.

Take for example the organization who asked for an upload of a resume, then required the candidate to re-type everything into their HRIS, asked for three survey responses, an open-ended writing task, a virtual face-to-face interview, *and* three letters of reference—all for an entry-level role. If you were actually selected for an in-person interview, the candidate was then presented with another task that could take up to two hours of prep time to do—again, all for an entry level role.

Is that wrong? Is it right? The importance of selecting the right staff for your team can’t be overstated. But there should be a line between taking necessary precautions to ensure the best fit for your role and understanding that many of the best candidates you might find simply don’t want to participate in such a grueling process and just decide to move on. There’s a caveat that says that companies will never treat an employee better than in the interview process and in the first few weeks on the job—and that’s where Sora’s work comes in, to make certain that an employee is fully supported from day one.

Bringing on the best to leave them without necessary support and equipment, wondering at the dysfunction that they find, and shuffled from department to department once they get there creates the reality and the perception that they just don’t matter—which causes that churn and disconnect. Having your employees know that they matter and that they’ll be respected from day one is a basic right—or it should be.

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Business News

Trader Joe’s doesn’t want to change its controversial brand names

(BUSINESS NEWS) Branding has gone through a major change recently and many companies are agreeing to shifts, but Trader Joe’s thinks its names are fine.

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In the last few months our country has gone through a complete re-evaluation of their societal impact with their branding names. Companies that have been strong for neigh on a century are changing their names to accommodate more socio-intelligent content. Whether its from real change or from following the societal trends, the gambit of following the socio-economic climate is becoming a common theme. However the world turns next, the changes we are seeing now is creating a new world of products and status quo.

One company, though, is standing strong with their branding. Trader Joe’s, a grocery store chain, is sticking to its guns, despite some rather vocal push back. A petition aimed at the stores “racist” branding name habit has started making its way through the internet. Currently the petition has crossed the 5000-signature threshold and is getting close to its 7500 goal on change.org.

The habit of using phrases like “Trader Jose” or “Trader Ming’s” in their international food products is the main point of contention. The people behind the petition state that using names like this makes those items appear to be exotic or out of the norm like the original/traditional brand Joe – which at its very basic definition is truthful. The branding technique brands something as different than the original.

Initially a company spokesperson stated that the names were in the process of being changed, but less than a week later their tone changed. Trader Joe’s now states that while they “want to be clear; we disagree that any of these labels are racist.” They will not be changing things based on petitions. Also they report that “decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader Jose’s, Trader Ming’s, etc.

We thought then – and still do – that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures”. According to their current reporting they have also reached out to their customer base and supposedly many customers reaffirmed “that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended – as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing”.

Personally, I see two major issues here. First, they are literally talking about a branding that is decades old; habits that were comedic then are now seen in a very different light. Just like an organism, society grows and changes too. If they can’t come up with new gimmicks to make themselves more popular and fresher, then they’ll most likely fall by the wayside as it is. The other issue is that their polling was specifically geared towards their current buyers; they asked their own customers whether they found this offensive. Can we all just take a collective deep breath and say biased please? Whether or not they decide to stick to their guns here is going to lay some groundwork in the future.

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