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NAR uses bully pulpit to put Lones Group on notice?

The National Association of Realtors, notorious for defending it’s trademarks vigorously took to the pulpit to lecture Washington based marketing company, the Lones Group (whose CEO is an active Realtor, Washington State Broker License #12518) on the perils of picking a fight with the online popular kids which NAR refers to as a “mob.”

The Lones Group is suing popular blogger and Realtor, Daniel Rothamel for trademark infringement, which Inman covered on Friday, setting off a fire storm of protest to which NAR was the first to comment “I’m not a lawyer, but have a pretty good idea of how the court of opinion is about to rule.”

Years ago, NAR defended its own trademark by sending AgentGenius (formerly RealtorGenius) a standard cease and desist letter for using “Realtor” in the URL, and rather than fight we chose the high road despite what “mob” rule was pressuring us to do publicly to NAR. The “mob” was inspired to speak out against the “NAR machine” and websites like NARWisdom were born.

The difference between our case and the Lones v. Rothamel case is that ours was NAR v. alleged trademark infringer as opposed to Realtor v. Realtor. NAR weighing in on active litigation between Realtors has many questioning what has changed in their notoriously stiff position against trademark infringement.

Isn’t it curious that the NAR would use their bully pulpit position to pressure an individual marketer/Realtor into doing what they believe is right? Is it irresponsible of NAR to publicly organize the “mob” as if to insinuate safe passing if the Lones Group should see the light and drop their suit? Doesn’t “mob” organization bear implication of the possibility that the Lones Group could join the “mob” as a hero if they make the PR move to drop the suit? Doesn’t NAR’s position on the “mob” publicly assert their influence over the “mob”?

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What harm does this do to NAR’s reputation- is this the future of the National Association of Realtors’ digital strategy?

Should the Lones Group bow to pressure from a giant trade association? Should the Lones Group fear an internet “mob”?

What has changed that NAR would value one member over another? What has shifted internally that NAR would put less weight on the importance of trademark after decades of vehemently defending their own?

AgentGenius has been following how NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun and his research department have handled the media controversy regarding their data and we have been rather impressed at the sophistication in which they’ve approached it, making the turn of events outlined above quite stunning.

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Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Mike

    March 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I think NAR should stay out of it.

    Relator is a unique word. They should defend that tradekmark which has been registered. The Lones Group, according to many comments, never trademarked the Zebra part of their name. If it was registered there would be less to argue but still the mob would be there.

  2. John MacArthur

    March 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Why should anything the NAR does surprise you? Follow the money. The NAR is more concerned with revenue from members that standing up for anything it supposedly represents. The entire organization is a sham. From their continued “Pollyanish” view on the market to their spouting that real estate is a great investment to their using faulty data to back up their claims to this interference in a court matter.

    They know most agents only pay dues because many have to be a member to have access to the MLS systems. If that obstacle were ever removed, the NAR would be defunct in less than one year.

  3. Coleen Brennan DeGroff via Facebook

    March 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Being a member of NAR is like being a member of an HOA – you are paying money into a machine in which you have no say and which can easily be wielded against you

  4. Coleen Brennan DeGroff via Facebook

    March 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Being a member of NAR is like being a member of an HOA – you are paying money into a machine in which you have no say and which can easily be wielded against you

  5. Jonathan Benya

    March 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Hang on there, is this a lawsuit of Denise lones v. Rothamel, or Lones Group v. Rothamel? The Lones group is not a realtor, Denise is, and that makes a big difference here, legally at least. It’s entirely possible that Daniel may have infringed, and I personally don’t have the right to be judge jury or executioner. If I were Daniel, would I fight back? Absolutely. My wife spent years as a paralegal in the franchise/infringement field, and all I know is that it’s all way over my head, so while I may support Daniels cause, I don’t think NAR or the RE community is doing him any favors with the slanderous posts and comments against the Lones Group.

  6. James Malanowski

    March 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Interesting take on Todd’s article. I think he did well in laying out a balanced point of view even though he admitted to being personally biased towards Daniel. The article, in my opinion, was more of a bigger-picture piece about brand building (or destroying) than Todd coming out on Daniel’s side of the issue at hand.

    You talk about the “mob” as if you don’t agree with the term when in fact there is a very vocal mob going after The Lones Group right now. The term “mob” isn’t necessarily indicative of a group of people doing something wrong/evil/mean, so don’t be so quick to take offense at its use.

  7. Dennis Fassett

    March 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Thank God the NAR is taking this tact. Anything that hastens their demise and eliminates their buggy-whip value proposition is a great thing. It brings a tear to my eye to think that I may see the realtard logo disappear within my kid’s lifetimes. Sniff sniff.

  8. Ken Brand

    March 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    It’s a “Case Study” that keep on giving. When the dust settles, the causalities might surprise some.

  9. Greg Cooper

    March 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for calling this what it is Benn. A NAR employee on a NAR platform taking sides in Federal litigation between two of it’s members. I’m with Ken Brand….several are going to get punched in the mouth on this….and when it’s over they’ll be plenty of bloody lips to go around. The lawyers are rubbing their hands with glee.

    • Frances Flynn Thorsen

      March 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      I think Ken has a hunch about the real casualties in this affair when the dust settles.

      Of course, by now NAR has taken down Carpenter’s post on the NAR blog and his personal blog post about The Lones Group vs. Daniel Rothamel is still live.

      It is incredible that Carpenter (1) acknowledged “the mob” with open arms and (2) stated he was a “member of the angry mob.”

      Denise Lones has not bowed to NAR pressure. Indeed, she reached out to them and they responded by removing one of Carpenter’s offending blog posts. I think the Realtor brand suffers incalculable harm with a social media policy that finds so many of its members deeply offended with such regularity.

      NAR branding? The firestorm of last year’s AgentGenius articles about Todd Carpenter and the Indiana Assn. of Realtors totally eclipsed the launch of a brilliant redesign and reformatted Realtor Magazine Online. That was a shame.

      I wonder how NAR articulates a digital strategy at the AE Institute meeting this week in Dallas. Is it, “Do as we do?” Does NAR digital strategy serve as a model for state and local associations? What would happen if local associations’ digital voices weighed in on member conflicts with bias?

      What would happen in Houston or Indianapolis if an association spokesperson even “privately” weighed in with bias in favor of one member over another?

      I suspect heads would roll.

  10. Gail Robinson

    March 1, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Yet another angle to this fascinating case. Hadn’t thought of it that way before because I see Todd Carpenter as an individual, not as representing NAR, but you are right that he does wear that hat now. I thought Todd’s last blog post on how The Lones Group could use this to their benefit was pretty even-handed.

    • Drew Meyers

      March 1, 2011 at 11:14 pm

      Not sure why so many people get so upset over the fact that very few articles are written with an extremely balanced point of view. Are you biased toward your friends? Of course you are, that’s human nature. The same way you wouldn’t tell a balanced view if you were telling your friend about something that happened to a friend of yours, I don’t think it’s fair to expect every single person to write a balanced perspective online when that’s not the way human beings operate in real life.

      Just my 2 cents.

    • Drew Meyers

      March 1, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      And Gail, I didn’t mean to respond specifically to you. I meant to add that comment as a general response to everyone.

  11. Matt Thomson

    March 2, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I’m always shocked at Realtors distaste for their own organization. John, you don’t have to be a Realtor to gain access to an MLS system, you need to be a member of the MLS. Our MLS is about 60% Realtors, 40% real estate agents.

    Here’s an interesting idea…if you pay dues to NAR and don’t like what they do, maybe you can get involved. Maybe actually become a part of it.
    Nah, much easier to just bash them.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 2, 2011 at 1:14 am

      That’s untrue that anyone can be a member, in many areas of the country both are required.

      Participation is on many levels, including volunteering on a committee, I’m sure we can all agree on that.

  12. Ken Montville

    March 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    …and, of course, there is Zebra Technologies (https://www.zebra.com/) which seems to have the zebra image, name, URL and more incorporated into it’s brand. Although they aren’t in real estate – they’re into the whole bar code thing (get it? zebra? barcode?). Since QR codes are becoming the Next Big Thing in real estate marketing, I wonder if they might have a dog in this fight….but, I doubt if they care.

    I wonder if this means we individual Realtors should run out and trademark our branding, such as it is, so we can defend against a lawsuit? Sheesh. More money into the hands of lawyers.

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