Hey, that’s who we are! NAR in new trademark dispute over ‘R’ logo

NAR told the US Patent and Trademark Office on Monday that an NYC-based investment firm that operates fintech marketplace Republic has stepped over the line with its logo. What do you think?

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The National Association of Realtors is taking steps to protect its R’s.

The 1.58 million-member trade organization on Monday initiated a legal filing to block OpenDeal, a New York City-based financial technology firm, from obtaining a trademark for its own R-inspired logo. NAR filed the motion with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opposing OpenDeal Inc.’s request to trademark the logo for investment platform Republic.com, saying doing so would harm the Realtor brand.

“The R Mark is distinctive and widely recognized by the public in the United States as designations of the source of NAR’s association and real estate services and the R Mark was distinctive decades before Applicant filed its applications,” the trade organization claimed in legal filings this week.

The step to protect its assets is hardly surprising. NAR boasts a 25-page manual dedicated, in part, to outlining the rules for using its iconic R-based logo. It has strict rules around how members use the term Realtor.

OpenDeal is the owner of the investing platform Republic.com, which also has a number of subsidiaries that use various versions of an R logo.

OpenDeal moved to trademark its logo in October 2022. In its filing, NAR attorneys said Republic created its logo to benefit from the Realtor brand.

“Upon information and belief, in selecting the Opposed Marks, [OpenDeal] likely had actual knowledge of NAR’s R Mark and purposefully chose to trade on NAR’s goodwill in the R brand,” NAR attorneys wrote. OpenDeal “applied for the [trademark] with the intent to profit from NAR’s R Mark and the goodwill associated therewith.”

Republic.co company logo 2017

NAR first trademarked the term Realtor over a century ago. It began using the block letter R in 1973 and received trademark protection in 1975.

Five years ago, the organization launched a marketing campaign called THAT’S WHO WE R in an attempt to spread the brand, placing it on billboards, TV ads and printed marketing materials.

Court dockets show NAR has initiated legal proceedings to stop what it views as encroachments on its brand dozens of times, moving to stop organizations with similar brands or even words too close to Realtor from receiving trademark protection.

“The R Mark is symbolic of the extensive goodwill and consumer recognition built up through substantial amounts of resources spent in advertising, promoting and providing services under this mark,” NAR’s attorneys wrote.

Representatives from neither organization immediately responded to a request for comment about the legal action on Tuesday.

The two groups are set for a battle before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that would last through most of 2025.

The trademark claim comes as Realtors are considering whether NAR has damaged its own brand after a year of turmoil that included the departure of two presidents in a matter of months, as well as other legal battles NAR has lost.

Former president Kenny Parcell resigned in the wake of an exposé that detailed claims from 19 members who said they endured sexual harassment on the job and depicted an overall culture of harassment, retaliation and evasion.

Parcell was replaced by Tracy Kasper, who was officially appointed in November 2023. She resigned in January, saying she was facing a threat of blackmail. Kevin Sears is now in the middle of what will be a nearly two-year stint as president of the 1.5-million member organization.

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