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Lones Group says there are two sides to every story

Today, we received a response from the Lones Group regarding the public response to their lawsuit against Daniel Rothamel and are publishing the full transcript below.

Lones says in the press release that she attempted to reconcile the matter privately with no resolve and felt she had no other choice as her belief is that brand confusion ensues. Lones reports having received unpleasant phone calls and responds below to the online reaction to the suit. AGbeat has not yet verified all facts within the release below but will follow up.

From the Lones Group:

There are Always Two Sides to the Story
February 28, 2011

I’ve been helping agents improve their businesses for the last 15 years. A lot of that effort has gone into helping agents build their brands in the real estate business.

We take branding, both for individual agents and for businesses, very seriously. I encourage individual agents to develop a brand, something I’ve also done for my company. We’ve spent years building a strong brand and we have the legal right to protect it. Every individual and agent with a brand has that same right.

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But if two people’s brands are so similar that they confuse customers, the law gives the first person who used that brand the right to keep it. It’s the second person’s responsibility to change his brand, so everybody’s brand is unique and customers don’t get confused.

Recently, we found that another individual – Daniel Rothamel – was using similar branding elements, creating confusion online among potential clients and others in the real estate industry. Once we discovered this, we had to take legal action to protect our brand.

So we enlisted the services of a law firm specializing in intellectual property and trademark law to help us address this issue. Our hope was to initiate a discussion with Mr. Rothamel and reach an amicable solution to the disagreement.

At the heart of the controversy was Mr. Rothamel’s use of “Real Estate Zebra”, which created confusion with our “Zebra Report”. In addition, Mr. Rothamel’s “trade dress” – the distinctive “look” that people associate with a person’s services – is very similar to ours. This causes confusion. It’s in everybody’s best interest for the confusion to end.

We did reach out to Mr. Rothamel and to our sincere disappointment, Mr. Rothamel and his attorney refused to make any changes to their branding elements, nor did they offer to work with us amicably to resolve the issue.

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At that point, we had two alternatives: file a lawsuit in Federal court, or drop our claims entirely.

Because we’ve spent many years and significant resources building our brand, we felt the only viable option for us was a lawsuit. This is not a course of action we wanted to take; however, Mr. Rothamel left us no options. We took the appropriate steps and filed a trademark lawsuit in Federal court.

At no time was it, nor is it, our intention to slander Mr. Rothamel or his business, nor do we have the desire to harm Mr. Rothamel’s reputation. People have disagreements. When they can’t or won’t resolve those disagreements through discussion, sometimes they have to take it to the judge. The disagreements don’t make them bad people. We don’t assume Mr. Rothamel is a bad person, and we don’t discourage people from doing business with him. We just want to clear up the confusion.

Here’s what else you need to know:

This past week, Inman News ran an article about the lawsuit which then resulted in a firestorm of retaliation from Mr. Rothamel’s supporters, including an active campaign where agents were encouraged to join a Facebook group page in support of “stopping frivolous lawsuits”. Truth be told, the Inman News article resulted in one of the most aggressive online bullying campaigns I’ve seen.

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It’s important to note that while the Inman News article states that The Lones Group is a marketing company based in Washington State and Mr. Rothamel is a real estate agent in Virginia – thereby implying that the two parties have no overlap in the industry – this implication is not correct. In fact, not only do I have an active license to sell real estate in Washington State, Mr. Rothamel is actively involved in lecturing, teaching, and blogging – some of the same activities performed by my company. Both of us have a national presence. Mr. Rothamel is scheduled to speak at a real estate conference in Seattle next week. Some of my clients will probably be there. The overlap of activities could indeed create confusion for clients of both parties.

While we understand that Mr. Rothamel’s friends and social media contacts have a right to their opinion, the actions taken by these individuals are inflaming the situation, and detracting from the actual issue at hand. And what started as a trademark infringement issue has now turned into full-scale social media bullying.

In spite of the negative publicity this situation has generated, we are adamant about our right to protect our brand.

We encourage members of the real estate community to be prudent in their reaction to the lawsuit. Please feel free to read the complaint. I can assure you that if this were not a very serious issue, we would never have pursued a legal resolution.

The Lones Group will not engage in slander or do any damage online to Mr. Rothamel. We will not engage in the kind of online manipulation that Mr. Rothamel’s supporters have undertaken against us, nor will anyone from our company leave unpleasant messages on Mr. Rothamel’s business telephone, or in contact forms on his website or blog, or on sites such as ActiveRain. We refuse to retaliate in this profoundly unprofessional manner. As real estate professionals it is our duty to conduct ourselves offline and online in the most professional manner. As a member of the National Association of Realtors we are held to a high standard of conduct and ethical behavior and I will continue to uphold this Code of Ethics.

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Thank you:

To my clients and supporters, who have been defending me since news of the lawsuit was made public. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received privately from agents across the country. Sadly, these individuals are afraid to respond to the online posts made by Mr. Rothamel’s supporters, for fear that those supporters will slander them or cause them problems in the online real estate community. That saddens me greatly. I ask all of my clients to refrain from engaging in this social media bullying arena. I care first and foremost about your real estate business and I want you to focus on selling real estate. We must remember we are real estate professionals first and foremost.

To my employees, who have been strong and calm in the face of unpleasant phone calls and emails. No one should have to endure this kind of bullying.

The bottom line:

We have built a strong brand. We will pursue whatever course of action our attorneys recommend to appropriately resolve this issue. And we appreciate the support of the many real estate agents, and our clients, who have been willing to objectively look at the issues involved. I ask the real estate community to please respect the parties – both Daniel and my company are entitled to our own points of view. We also need to respect the judicial system which is in place to resolve disputes of this nature and conduct ourselves like the professionals we tout ourselves to be.”

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Eric Hempler

    March 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    If it’s an issue of a logo why do they need to sue for money?

  2. BawldGuy

    March 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    There are indeed two sides to every story. From what I can see with this one, for every person who knows of Lones Group, there are 100 who know the target of their lawsuit. We’re a country who respects the rule law, so I’m quite content to allow the court to settle this, and will content myself with the judge’s decision. I’m just not sure I’ll ever understand how a 15 year old firm can be so widely unknown, almost stealthy, and claim harm.

  3. Ken Brand

    March 2, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Come on now. There’s no confusion. Who is the person who says, oh, I was gonna use Lones Group, because of their Zebra stripes, but then I saw there was a Real Estate Agent in another state who calls himself the Zebra and I didn’t know what to do next? If there a some of those, I’d love to hear them share their story.

    There’s certainly no confusion now. It’s easier to figure out who the Zebra players are now.

    It’s odd behavior. Perhaps instead of human or Zebra Blood coursing through their veins it’s Tiger Blood?

  4. Heather

    March 3, 2011 at 7:59 am

    It’s plan and simple you cannot steal someones logo or their brand just like you can’t take someones car and try to use it as your own. My Alma mater got sued by dodge because the rams were almost identical obviously there is no confusion but that logo is the property of dodge they paid $1000 for it and have the right to say how it’s used. It’s no different then copyright. There will be more and more cases about this. Also do we know she is suing for money? Or for him to cease use of the infringement? Suing isn’t always about money

  5. Joe Lane

    March 3, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Very classy response from the Lones Group. Indeed, there are two sides to every story. I think it very professional of the Lones Group to discourage their supporters to not engage in the social media bullying (as the Lone Group put it) that the Rothamel camp may be participating in. Not that Daniel is advocating this, but it leaves me wondering what Daniel Rothamel’s position is on the attacks directed at the Lones Group.

  6. patrickhealy

    March 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    This is complete and utter crap. Daniel has always been the Real Estate Zebra. The Loads Group is simply trying to garner some eyeballs by suing a real estate agent on the east coast under the guise that he is hurting their paltry west coast business. Pu-Lease…..

  7. MH for Movoto

    March 3, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I remember when news of the lawsuit first hit Twitter… there WAS a lot of very, um, “staunch” support of Rothamel at Lones’s expense. And yes, Lones has provided a very eloquent response – but I can’t call it classy. Mostly because what they’re doing is absurd. As for the “online bullying” accusation . . . well, i didn’t participate myself because i didn’t know enough about the case, but I will say that I found the remarks of Rothamel’s supporters to be MUCH more reasonable/understandable than the lawsuit itself.

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