NAR Collects for Trademark Infringement

Following a ruling that a Washington State brokerage had violated the National Association of REALTOR’s trademark rights, NAR entered into a settlement agreement with the infringing brokerage and collected monetary damages.

NAR has federally registered the marks REALTOR and REALTORS (collectively, “Marks”) for sixty years. The Marks are collective membership marks, designed to identify members of NAR and only active members are allowed to use the Marks.

In 2010, NAR filed a lawsuit against Champions Real Estate Services, Inc. (“Brokerage”), alleging violations of federal trademark law as well as state law unfair competition claims. The Brokerage is a Washington state real estate brokerage with several offices. Prior to 2009, all of the Brokerage’s offices were members of NAR. In 2009, two of the offices discontinued their NAR membership.

NAR discovered that those offices continued to represent themselves as REALTORS in their communications and on their websites. NAR sent a number of “cease and desist” letters to these offices, but the Brokerage’s offices continued to misuse the Marks and so NAR eventually filed a lawsuit.

Prior to trial, NAR sought partial judgment on its allegations of the Brokerage’s violations of the Lanham Act, the federal trademark law. The trial court ruled that the Brokerage had infringed the Marks and entered an injunction against the Brokerage’s misuse of the Marks. The court found that the Marks were “strong,” the highest level of recognition that a trademark can obtain.

The remainder of the case proceeded to trial, including the amount of damages that NAR could collect in damages for the Brokerage’s infringement. Following the first day of trial, the parties entered into a settlement. The settlement contained the following terms:

Payment of $195,000 to NAR
Entry of a permanent injunction prohibiting the Brokerage’s use of the trademark, and requiring the Brokerage to disseminate this information to its offices

Upon payment of the settlement, NAR dismissed the lawsuit. View case:
http://www.realtor.org/letterlw.nsf/pages/0911champions?OpenDocument