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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

Australia vs Facebook: A conflict of news distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a contentious battle for news aggregation, Australia works to find agreement with Facebook.

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News open on laptop, which Australia argues Facebook is taking away from.

Australia has been locked in a legal war against technology giants Google and Facebook with regard to how news content can be consumed by either entity’s platforms.

At its core, the law states that news content being posted on social media is – in effect – stealing away the ability for news outlets to monetize their delivery and aggregate systems. A news organization may see their content shared on Facebook, which means users no longer have to visit their site to access that information. This harms the ability for news production companies – especially smaller ones – from being able to maintain revenue and profit, while also giving power to corporations such as Facebook by allowing them to capitalize on their substantial infrastructure.

This is a complex subject that can be viewed from a number of angles, but it essentially asks the question of who should be in control of information on a potentially global scale, and how the ability to share such data should be handled when it passes through a variety of mediums and avenues. Put shortly: Australia thinks royalties should be paid to those who supply the news.

Australia has maintained that under the proposed laws, corporations must reach content distribution deals in order to allow news to be spread through – as one example – posts on Facebook. In retaliation, Facebook completely removed the ability for users to post news articles and stories. This in turn led to a proliferation of false and misleading information to fill the void, magnifying the considerable confusion that Australian citizens were confronted with once the change had been made.

“In just a few days, we saw the damage that taking news out can cause,” said Sree Sreenivasan, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism. “Misinformation and disinformation, already a problem on the platform, rushed to fill the vacuum.”

Facebook’s stance is that it provides value to the publishers because shared news content will drive users to their sites, thereby allowing them to provide advertising and thus leading to revenue.

Australia has been working on this bill since last year, and has said that it is meant to equalize the potential imbalance of content and who can display and benefit from it. This is meant to try and create conditions between publishers and the large technology platforms so that there is a clearer understanding of how payment should be done in exchange for news and information.

Google was initially defiant (threatening to go as far as to shut off their service entirely), but began to make deals recently in order to restore its own access. Facebook has been the strongest holdout, and has shown that it can leverage its considerable audience and reach to force a more amenable deal. Australia has since provided some amendments to give Facebook time to seek similar deals obtained by Google.

One large portion of the law is that Australia is reserving the right to allow final arbitration, which it says would allow a mediator to set prices if no deal could be reached. This might be considered the strongest piece of the law, as it means that Facebook cannot freely exercise its considerable weight with impunity. Facebook’s position is that this allows government interference between private companies.

In the last week – with the new agreements on the table – it’s difficult to say who blinked first. There is also the question of how this might have a ripple effect through the tech industry and between governments who might try to follow suit.

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Business News

Plant-based milk company Oatly is going public in the U.S.

(BUSINESS NEWS) With the growing popularity of plant-based goods, it is unsurprising to see Oatly going to market, but how much the investment pays off remains to be seen.

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Plant-based milk Oatly on store shelves, two different varieties.

On Tuesday, the plant-based milk company, Oatly, filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in the U.S., which could value the company between $5 billion and $10 billion.

The IPO will take place after the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) completes its review process and is subject to market conditions. Additional details of the planned sale were not offered in the confidential filing. The price and number of shares available to purchase are yet to be determined.

The Sweden-based vegan food and drink maker was founded in the 1990s by brothers Rickard and Björn Öste. The company sells its products online and in more than 50,000 retail stores in 20 countries across Europe and Asia. The company entered the U.S. in 2017 and has also partnered with cafes, such as Starbucks.

Last July, Oatly raised $200 million in investment equity. The company is backed by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and celebrity investors like Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, and Jay-Z. According to PitchBook, the company was valued at around $2 billion at that time.

In 2019, the company generated about $200 million in revenue, which is almost double the year before. Figures for 2020 haven’t been released yet, but the company planned on doubling them again.

Although the numbers haven’t been made public, it isn’t a far-off stretch to say the company could have done just that. Demand for plant-based products has been high. In just the first week of March last year, Nielsen statistics showed the sales of oat milk were up 347.3%.

This rise is due to consumers seeking alternatives to animal products and healthier food options. Already, fast-food chains, casual, and upscale restaurants have entered the plant-based food sector by adding new plant-based items to their menus.

Burger King has its Impossible Whopper with a plant-based patty. Baskin-Robbins offers three vegan ice cream flavors. Starbucks also announced in December that it would now serve oat milk at all its locations nationwide starting in the spring.

Oatly already has a large following. As more health and environment-conscious consumers are willing to seek and pay for these types of products, it seems like their following will only continue to grow.

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Business News

Fake news? Well, what about fake reviews?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is swamped with fake reviews, making it harder than ever to trust whether or not a product is legit. How can you spot them and avoid falling victim to this shady practice?

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Person shopping online with credit card, but are they reading fake reviews?

These days, most of us have turned to online shopping in lieu of brick-and-mortar establishments to get our favorite items shipped directly to our front door. With many retailers still closed, and many more of us understandably wary of exposing ourselves to the risk of COVID-19, it’s easier to just click “buy” and then spend the next two days with our noses pressed to our windows in anticipation of the arrival of our new toy or garment. But are we at risk of being tricked by fake reviews?

If you’re like most people, you probably depend on product reviews to make a purchasing decision. Honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to see what others thought of the item before you buy it. These online reviews are almost like your neighbor, who whipped out his lawnmower and bragged how it goes from 0 to 4 mph in less than thirty seconds. Obviously — obviously — you had to run out to your nearest garden center to pick up one of your own after his glowing review of it, right?

That’s kinda like online reviews, too. You can’t just knock on the purchaser’s door and ask them what they thought of it, which is why you carefully peruse those reviews and weigh those pros and cons. Okay, this shirt fits loose. Fine, these kitchen shears broke after three uses. Whoa, this brand of potato chips puts hair on your chest…? Sweet! And you also probably looked at those 3-star reviews, too, to see what was merely “meh” about the product. With this assortment of mixed reviews, you can be confident that you’re making a rock-solid choice.

Uh, sadly, nope.

Unfortunately, Amazon (as well as other major retailers, such as Walmart) are often fraught with a glut of fake reviews. In fact, there are numerous Facebook pages dedicated to the purchase of these reviews, and many of the reviewers are compensated with a monetary reward (usually the cost of the item, plus a few extra dollars for their work) for posting the glowing 5-star rave.

So what can you do to help protect yourself for falling for these seemingly harmless lies?

Well, first and foremost — a fake review isn’t necessarily harmless. If a defective or dangerous product is boosted by a false review, it can seriously harm you. Sure, there’s a good chance the fake reviews are benign, and the worst you’ll be in for it is losing a few bucks on a crap item. But if something is using counterfeit or unsafe ingredients (such as minoxidil in potato chips because, real talk, chips aren’t supposed to put hair on your chest), then yes, you need to be informed of it so you can make an educated decision about whether or not that item is coming home with you.

So, the question remains: How can you, intrepid shopper extraordinaire, avoid purchasing a lemon? (Unless, of course, your goal was to buy an actual lemon in the first place. Margaritas, anyone?) The good news is that there are a couple things you can do. For starters, common sense goes a long way. Do the reviews offer any context, or is it just line after line of, “Loved it!” without any actual feedback on the item? That’s why those 3-star reviews are so priceless. Usually the reviewer actually used the item and had a valid reason for their tepid review, allowing you to make an educated decision about it.

Finally, there are a couple of websites you can use to help you out. First, there’s Fakespot. This web extension will cull out all the fake reviews, allowing you to see at-a-glance the remaining genuine reviews. It then reviews the item for its credibility, letting you know if the seller was trying to pull a fast one on you. Then there’s ReviewMeta. Unlike Fakespot, this website goes through the views and instead of grading the seller, it actually grades the item based on the average score of the remaining real reviews. And by using both of these websites together to check those reviews? You’ve now got yourself a pretty decent idea if the product is actually worth your hard-earned dollars.

It’s far too easy to get scammed these days. However, by staying alert and remaining mindful about your online purchases (and avoiding the temptation to give into those stress-motivated impulse buys), you can avoid being bilked, too. And hey, instead of looking at online reviews, maybe you should go back to the old-fashioned way of doing it: By asking your neighbor for their opinions of items. Just, y’know, do it from at least six feet away, while wearing a face mask.

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