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Opinion Editorials

Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?

Is the boat about to rock?

A recent survey by which they plan to present to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “Over 70% of respondents thought that the value of ‘MLS’ could be easily diminished through the confusion caused by non-Realtor aggregator’s use of that term.”

Because the term “MLS” (Multiple Listing Service) is not trademarked and there are currently no industry protections over the term, and there is currently support brewing for trademarking the term given that anyone can use the term when describing real estate data collected and presented by anyone, even third party companies.

We ask who would govern the national enforcement and would it look like the NAR’s protection over the term “REALTOR®” where a department shoots off a cease and desist order followed by threats and eventual legal action, or would it look more along the lines of moderation on a forum where use is flagged and reported and governed by the national community at large?

Time for you to weigh in

In an effort to make sure your voice is heard, please take a moment to lend your opinion to the debate, which we will make sure is shared with NAR. Would this move be yet another stifling of innovation or is protection critical now more than ever? Let us know!

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CC Licensed image courtesy of harmonious design via

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Michael Wurzer

    June 16, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Lani, the cat’s out of the bag, neither NAR nor anyone else can get a US trademark over the accronym MLS today, because the term has become generic. It’s simply too late. More interesting, however, is the issue of domain names, and there is an effort underway to obtain the .mls top-level domain for MLS organizations. See

  2. Benn Rosales

    June 16, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I’m with Michael on this one, stuffing this one back in the bag is both too late and a waste of time and resources.

  3. Eric Hempler

    June 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I remember when I first looked up MLS and Major League Soccer (MLS) came up. Does that mean they have to change the name of the league of MLS becomes trademarked?

  4. Ruthmarie Hicks

    June 16, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I’m not so sure that that’s the case. I can’t use MLS on my IDX – why should aggregators have the privilege? Information is power and frankly I don’t get how the MLS information is NOT proprietary. Stuffing it back in the bag may be necessary for the survival of the industry. I do not buy into the notion that “information longs to be ‘free’ and will find a way to be so.” I worked in a field where proprietary information was the norm and you had to get PERMISSION to utilize or have access to it. It represented the work of others – and thus no matter how much the information longed to be “free” it belonged to someone. …plain and simple.

  5. Lani Rosales

    June 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Comments from where we asked, “So “REALTOR” is trademarked, but some are arguing that “MLS” should be as well and say that websites using the acronym “MLS” are damaging the industry by causing confusion. What do YOU think?”

    Ron Foo Chun: I agree MLS should be trademarked. It’s a brand and the confusing sites using it only dilutes and confuses the public.

    Laura Nelson Brown: I agree. It is misleading to have names like MLS Realty, etc.

    Daniel Bates: I agree that it’s a brand, but I don’t know that anything these other companies are anything worse than what has contorted it into. I don’t think it really matters, The MLS lose all value as soon as one of the big brokerages pulls out. The NAR simply is not providing any value for all the dues it’s reaping in and there’s no compelling argument to keep a company like in charge of all the data when google, trulia, and zillow are making better technological bounds.

    Fred Romano: I don’t agree. Mls is just an acronym for multiple listing service which are generic terms. Any system that has “multiple” listings can be considered an mls. This includes fsbo sites and independent websites that allow listings to be posted.

    Andy Nazaroff: MLS is not owned by NAR & this battle was already fought and lost. However, certain local MLS’ have been able to get websites to take down their version of “localcity”

    Eric Hempler: What happens to Major League Soccer (MLS) do they loose [sic] their initials?

  6. Century 21

    June 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry? (@agentgenius)

  7. Mark Jacobs

    June 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    If we can’t use it then why should aggregators have the privilege?

  8. Soccer West

    June 16, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Does aggregators' use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?: Because the term “MLS” (Multiple Listing Service) is…

  9. Shea Bunch

    June 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

    I agree that if agents are not allowed to use the term MLS then the aggregators should not as well, but as several others have already commented, this battle has already been lost.

  10. SoccerPhD

    June 17, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Does aggregators' use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?

  11. Tom Lyons

    June 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry? – Is the boat about to rock?
    A recent survey by …

  12. Lucus

    June 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I remember NAR trying to stop people from using MLS in their domain names. What a joke. They tried to get me to pull one of me sites, using their standard cease and desist orders. I told the to stuff it. The domain is still up today.

    I can’t wait until realtor becomes public domain like kleenex, etc.

  13. JWL Consulting

    July 13, 2010 at 1:27 am

    "Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?" ( ). The solution is DotMLS.

  14. Judith Lindenau

    July 13, 2010 at 2:20 am

    RT @JWLConsulting: "Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?" ( ). The solution is DotMLS.

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