Whether or not you work in real estate or have bought or sold a home recently, you are no doubt familiar with the logo of the red, white and blue hot air balloon belonging to the national real estate company RE/MAX. The Denver, Colorado-based company has used this horizontal color scheme since 1974 and trademarked that scheme 15 years later. And it works hard to protect its trademark. If the company receives a tip from one of its local branch offices, it will send a letter to the offending party.
If the letter goes unnoticed, the company will take things a step further, which it did with an out-of-state property management company last month. It filed a suit in federal court against a home rental and beachside resort company. Although the business is not in the exact same business as RE/MAX, if it feels the infringement on its brand's color scheme could reasonably confuse a person on the brand, then it can pursue a legitimate trademark infringement suit.
According to reports, RE/MAX was first made aware of the company's sign in early 2008 and sent a letter to the company in April of that year asking them to cease and desist use of the color scheme and either destroy or turn over the signs to RE/MAX. The company ignored the request, according to the suit. Intellectual property attorneys agree that when a large national company such as RE/MAX sends a threatening letter regarding a potential trademark infringement it typically receives a response of some sort.
Although the trademark infringement lawsuit was a little slow to develop, an intellectual property attorney not associated with the case said it could be due to the fact that RE/MAX does not see the regional property management company as a direct threat to its brand. Most large companies will jump right on it as the trademark infringement could either dilute or negatively impact its brand.
The suit seeks undisclosed monetary damages from the property management company, as well as profits it may have lost for the company's use of its intellectual property. Although the owner of the company did not return calls, it was noted the sign in front of his business is no longer red, white and blue, according to a local RE/MAX real estate agent.
Source: News-Journal, "Daytona firm accused of trademark infringement," Tom Knox, June 5, 2012