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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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Business News

DMCA and Twitch streaming, aka a mess of copyright

(BUSINESS NEWS) As live-streaming is booming in popularity, DMCA claims are becoming an existential problem for Twitch. And it’s streamers who bear the burden.

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Twitch streamer in front of gaming PC, likely to face DMCA claims.

Last month hundreds of content creators on the streaming platform Twitch received DMCA takedown notices from their host at the same time, telling them that content on their channel was potentially in violation of copyright law.

Twitch has since summed up the incident in their own words on their blog. Typically, DMCA notices are supposed to provide the recipient with information about their options for submitting a counter-claim or seeking retraction. But, as the post admits, “the only option provided [to streamers] was a mass deletion tool for [their] clips, [and] we only gave [them] three days notice to use this tool.”

If they didn’t, they would risk losing their channel (and in many cases, their full time income.)

The videos in question could span thousands of hours of content, which could not realistically be deleted in the time allowed.

 

No Title

So, what you’re saying is all potentially copywritten music clips/VODS on my channel have already been identified and deleted, so I don’t need to delete anything right now?I need clarification because I don’t have the time to go through 4 years of clips.

Twitch has pretty much looked the other way from the unlicensed use of music on its user channels throughout its history. That’s generated more than a little resentment from groups like the Recording Industry Association of America in the past, and as the site only continues to grow, a massive wave of pressure from the labels has forced the site’s hand

The music industry wants Twitch to arrange for their streamers to use audio under the terms that websites like YouTube use. That includes a diligent Content ID system.

But instead, Twitch has built an in-house solution to this whole mess: Soundtrack, which offers a “rights-cleared music” from “independent artists.”

A spokesperson from Twitch supplied this statement to The Verge: “The music from Soundtrack is put into live streams and does not end up in VODs, and therefore we and our partners agree that sync licenses are not needed for Soundtrack.”

(The music industry doesn’t see it that way though.)

Not only that, but streamers still have a lot of questions about the new expectations on the site. In one case, a streamer had to completely stop their feed because their video was picking up music from an unrelated source.

Someone can even be flagged for playing a game that uses copyrighted music on-stream. Even playing a Star Wars game that makes use of the movie’s copyrighted soundtrack is a risky move. (After all, nobody wants to take any chances with Disney’s infamously aggressive legal team.)

In their apology, they expressed a desire to explore “potential approaches to additional licenses,” but said that “the current constructs for licenses that the record labels have with other services […] make less sense for Twitch.”

Securing a given song’s licensing rights is a pretty implausible task for a young streamer, since major copyright holders don’t generally negotiate on small-scale terms. Twitch, on the other hand, has been owned by Amazon since 2014. Amazon just happens to already be one of the biggest copyright holders in the world, and obtaining the rights to the songs that are in high demand shouldn’t be a prohibitive issue for one of their companies.

But ultimately this debacle isn’t solely their fault. The DMCA is an old law— old enough to drink, even. The people who wrote it could not have possibly accounted for the rapidly expanding new media industry. Under pressures like these, something has to give.

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Business News

There, and back again? Working remotely now, and in a post-vaccine world

(BUSINESS NEWS) Working remotely is now a subject openly discussed in the business world, and is affecting every employee in organizations. Companies should adapt while remaining careful to avoid common pitfalls.

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Mother working remotely with a child jumping on the couch next to her working.

I’m not even sure it’s up for debate anymore – working remotely is not lowering productivity. Several employers (90%!) are saying this (perhaps surprised with the findings). There was a lot of concern and hand wringing about this in the first part of the 2020 decade, but the experiments have bore out data that largely suggests it’s a viable option.

Working remotely has not been without its issues. Communication remains a concern and always will be, whether that is with coworkers or management, parents have more to deal with, and virtual meetings carry their own set of logistics that we’re all still navigating. But productivity has – surprisingly – been upheld despite the massive shift.

So this brings us to the next problem on the horizon – what happens once the pandemic is over, specifically with regard to remote work? Will workers want to return to their offices (assuming they are still available)? Will it affect a company’s entire workforce, or will it be left up to individual employees to decide? Could a hybrid system work?

Hybrid can be horrible,” says Gitlab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij. Gitlab has functioned as a fully remote company since its inception, and now has over 1,300 employees across 66 countries. They have written an extensive book that covers their processes for maintaining this setup, which has seen an increase in downloads since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sujbrandij explains that, “If you try to do hybrid you will have an A team and a B team, those in the office and those deprived of information and career opportunities.” This will create a disconnection between both groups, and will ultimately result in a breakdown in communication between those who work remotely versus those reporting into the office. This can lead to a number of potentially damaging scenarios – favoritism, knowledge being hidden away and siloed, and creating unfounded myths about productivity and commitment.

In other words, companies – once given the opportunity to return to a centralized workspace – may fall into the incorrect assumption that there can be flexible rules that apply to everyone under the guise of personal preference. This is a great idea in theory, but sounds a lot like the time Jim tried to celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same day. The ultimate joke of the episode is that the plan fails spectacularly – there’s so much unforeseen logistics and opinions and requests that everyone ends up disappointed; Michael comes back and consoles a broken Jim, stating that he’d tried that before.

Prithwiraj Choudhury – a professor at Harvard Business School – weighs in with similar advice, stating that companies need to take this transition seriously, with the potential for several months or years to fully complete the process. A recent article he authored explores this idea, with a huge emphasis on the idea that we will not simply work from home, but from anywhere, embracing a future where employees will be able to choose to live in other cities, states, or countries.

He further elaborates that this will be a necessity to help attract and keep key talent, and that this should be one of the primary motivations. “You really need to be convinced of why you are embracing this model. … This is the way to attract and retain the best talent. There are real estate costs and other benefits, but those are secondary.”

One way to help this is to ensure that everyone is on board – that even the C suite executives need to work remotely, functioning as a “shining example” that emphatically and enthusiastically embrace knowledge sharing. They can utilize Slack channels (or other communication avenues), and pursuing all necessary methods to ensure access is evenly applied across the board and given to all employees.

As we turn into a new year where a vaccine might be available, there will come a time when companies must re-evaluate their approach to working remotely again, making sure to have protocol and process that is definitive.

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Business News

End of unemployment benefits spell disaster without plans to replace them

(BUSINESS NEWS) If Congress doesn’t agree on a stimulus extension, December 31st could be a massive “cliff” for millions of unemployed Americans

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Unemployment documents being handed to employer.

If you’re still employed, chances are you know someone who has been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19. Unemployment benefits from the CARES Act have cushioned the economic fallout from the pandemic for millions of Americans who are currently jobless. As someone who was furloughed from my 9-5 at the beginning of quarantine, I was extremely relieved to discover that the government had a plan for myself and others in my shoes.

However, without an agreed upon plan from Congress, these benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. This inaction would make unemployed Americans exceedingly more vulnerable to poverty and eviction. So, what’s the deal Congress? Why are y’all dragging your feet?

Here’s what you have to know about the current state of things:

  • Since the end of July, when extra unemployment benefits (aka the “extra $600) expired, most unemployed people are only making about half of their wage
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about two unemployed workers for every open job (yikes!)
  • Over 10 million people are collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits in America – and another 345,000 filed new applications last week – this isn’t “getting better”
  • After December the federal ban on evictions will be lifted, meaning we will most likely see a massive spike in unhoused individuals and families

All of this is happening as the holiday season approaches and a third wave of COVID spikes across America. As it gets colder in many places, many businesses that made it through the first waves are expected to close and, subsequently, their workers are expected to be laid off.

Everything is coming to a head on December 31st. If Congress doesn’t get its act together and agree on what a pandemic relief extension needs to look like, the American people will undoubtedly experience a very dark and depressing winter and spring.

Jean Kimmel, an economics professor at Western Michigan University, states that: “A society that already was becoming increasingly unequal will just become even more unequal [without benefit extensions].” Because COVID-related unemployment disproportionately affected America’s gig and low-wage workers, as well as women and People of Color, the failure to extend benefits would only further exacerbate the economic inequality in our country, which isn’t good for anyone.

Let’s hope our politicians can put aside their differences for the sake of the general public. Fingers crossed.

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