"WASHINGTON – July 26, 2016 – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) won a trademark cancellation proceeding before the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). The issue focused on NAR's trademarked term "Realtor" and whether real estate sales people who were not members of NAR could legally use it.
In the proceeding, a Realtor member petitioned the USPTO to cancel NAR's trademark registration for the Realtor trademark, alleging that the trademark was generic and no longer deserved legal protection.
The USPTO rejected the allegations, however, upholding NAR's longstanding trademark rights.
"The Realtor trademark is one of the most commonly recognized marks in the industry, so we fight to defend it on the state and national level," says Margy Grant, vice president and general counsel for Florida Realtors. "It's not simply someone who sells real estate. The trademark indicates a major difference between someone with just a real estate license and a professional who has agreed to honor and uphold the Realtor Code of Ethics."
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board – the adjudication arm of the USPTO – oversaw the proceeding. A cancellation proceeding looks at whether an already-registered trademark should be canceled, thereby cancelling the protections and rights associated with that registration. Anyone who believes they'll be damaged by the registration may initiate a proceeding.
Common grounds for commencing a cancellation are abandonment, genericness and priority. With an allegation of genericness, the petitioner must show that the trademark has become the generic name for the goods or services the trademark is connected with.
In this case, the Realtor member petitioned to cancel NAR's registration for the Realtor® Mark based on genericness, but the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board disagreed.
This decision is in line with an earlier case, Freeman v. National Association of Realtors®, Cancellation Nos. 27,885 & 28,047 (U.S.T.T.A.B. June 18, 2002).
NAR's full explanation of the case can be found on its website.
Read the full decision: Schermerhorn v. National Association of Realtors®, Canc. No. 92061031 (TTAB Mar. 30, 2016)
© 2016 Florida Realtors®"
Andrea Proeber is now a Broker Associate! She has been a Realtor in Marion County for over a decade and specializes in long term real estate investing and property management.