Blogs and Forums Breaking Laws - Realtor in a forum or blog nickname

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As many of you know (And those that don't really should) the term "Realtor®" is a registered membership mark belonging to all members of the National Association Of Realtors. As a membership mark, it is used to identify a member as belonging to the NAR and has very specific rules in terms of how it can be used on the web - (In domain names, email addresses etc)

What many of you don't know (And until I had a chat with the NAR's trademark administrator a few weeks ago neither did I) is that these same rules still apply when it comes to their use in forums, blogs (Weblogs) and any other situation identifying or being associated with a user.

Instead of explaining in my own words how this effects you, I am going to post (As she has given me permission to do in order to educate NAR members) the email that Mary Newill of the NAR was kind enough to draft up for me.


Dear Morgan:
Thank you for your telephone call today questioning the use of Chicago Realtor as a user name. We appreciate your help in explaining this misuse to this Member.

The use of the terms REALTOR and REALTORS is licensed to Members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS to identify themselves as Members of this organization; but there are rules they are required to abide by when using these terms.

The terms were originally coined by a member of the National Association in 1915 to identify members of his local association from nonmember real estate licensees. They were then adopted by the National Association to apply nationally in 1916. Following the passage of the Lanham Act in 1946, which made it possible for the first time to register membership marks as a type of trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office the National Association filed applications for the registration of both REALTOR and REALTORS as collective membership marks. The rules and policies pertaining to the use of these terms were designed to encourage the widest possible fair and consistent use of the Marks while at the same time preserving and perpetuating their meaning and identifying function.

 In domain names, email addresses, user names etc. Members can use the terms REALTOR or REALTORS in with their name, or if they are a broker with the complete name of their firm. Chicago Realtor's misuse of the REALTOR marks is an example of a common error. Instead of identifying someone as a Member the term is used with a term intended to describe something about the person or his services. This use violates Article V, Section 7 of the Bylaws which expressly prohibits the use of any descriptive words or phrases with the membership marks, including geographical descriptions such as state or city names. The only exception to this rule was created for the State and local boards and associations. They were authorized the right to use a geographical description consistent with their assigned jurisdiction, together with the membership marks. This makes sense, as the Boards and Associations are made up of many Members (REALTORS) in one area and no one Member can appropriate the membership mark for any geographical location. This would not be fair to other Members (REALTORS) in that same area.

Chicago REALTOR does not specifically identify a Member, but presents this term generically, that is outside the context of membership. It could easily be misinterpreted as a synonym for any real estate agent/broker/salesperson rather than correctly identifying a Member. To help retain the registration of the REALTOR membership marks we request those involved with the real estate business never display the Marks in any generic way. The term REALTOR is the one universal way members of the Association have to distinguish themselves from all others in the real estate profession. Each time these Marks are used correctly by our Members, the value of the term REALTOR is increased not only for that user, but also for every other member of the Association.

Sincerely,
Mary Newill,
Trademark Administrator
 Legal Affairs Division
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

What this means to bloggers and members of forums or discussion boards.

Basically:
  1. You actually have to be a member of the NAR in order to use the term "Realtor" at all in your username.
  2. Your username must be used in accordance with the guidelines set out by the NAR - basically if you are an "agent" you can only use the term "Realtor" in conjunction with your name as in "Realtor Jim Olenbush" or "Jim Olenbush Realtor" (Jim I hope you don't mind me using your name here, let me know and I will change it) or if you are a broker, you can also use your full firm name such as "Realtor Jim Olenbush Cantera Real Estate" or "Realtor Jim Olenbush Cantera Real Estate" 
  3. Most importantly if you are using the term "Realtor" in an in-appropriate manner, you must change it. To do otherwise means that you are (After you have read this) knowingly violating the terms of use of this membership mark.
Here are Real Estate Webmasters, we are going to be implementing a new policy with regards to the use of the term "Realtor" in a username - we will be allowing members up to August 7th, 2007 to provide any REW Staff member with a new username that is in compliance with these rules (This goes for both the blogs and the forums) after such date, we will be voluntarily changing all usernames still in violation - if you would like to have control over what your username or blog nickname will be here at Real Estate Webmasters, please head over to the forums and send a private message to any member of the Real Estate Webmasters staff, and we will change it for you (You do not have to change your password, so please do not PM us your password)

Comments

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Ryan Ward

Thanks for a good post Morgan. I will need to go through some what I have written to make sure I am in compliance. I'll ask this to you in case you happened upon this scenario while you were talking with Mary. Would it be inappropriate to use the phrase "if you are looking for an Alpharetta REALTOR..." or Ryan Ward is an Alpharetta REALTOR or is that still too general a use of the term? I will look into this seperately - I was just curious as your conversation might still be fresh in your mind. Again, thanks for the good post. Ryan

Spoken Gently

Probably should be noted that in some instances the proper format when using the word is "REALTOR®." See #5 here. I need to pay more attention to this, as I seldom add the trademark symbol.

Spoken Gently

Here is the url for "here." See above. http://www.realtor.org/rmomag.NSF/pages/lawoct04?OpenDocument

Ryan Ward

Thanks Joe. That is somewhat helpful as it makes some good distinctions such as the prohibition of using descriptive terms such as best REALTOR®, but, in a sentence such as "if you are looking for an Alpharetta REALTOR®..." still appears a bit unclear to me. On the other hand, it makes it quite clear that a signature such as "Ryan Ward, Alpharetta REALTOR®" would be prohibited. Maybe I'll email them tomorrow and see if I can get a definitive answer.

Morgan Carey

I would think it depends on your grammar (But I don't know for sure) - like Are you attempting to locate a REALTOR® in Atlanta maybe ok, as Realtor is a "person" or member of the association whereas there is no such thing as an "Atlanta REALTOR®" so you can't really be looking for an "Atlanta REALTOR®" - I have no idea on this one, it hasn't come up - but I will certainly ask for you if you like.

Dave Kovaleski

Hmm, how bout using Pocono REALTOR as a key word and page title and then using it as a a in the body? This seems unallowed also.

Marisha

The way I see it, the form "Are you attempting to locate a REALTOR® in Atlanta" would be a prohibited use, since it generalizes the term, implying that some might be looking for a real estate salesperson located in Atlanta, but not necessarily a NAR member. Not that I know whether I am a member, being in Canada....

Afraid of NAR

This is just another reason to drop the realtor designation altogether. This organization is ridiculous, we pay good money to use this term and to make people change how they use it in text and articles, these people are nuts. I say let them have their term, stop using it and make sure you let people know why you are NOT a REALTOR because you hold yourself to a higher ethical standard. The reason I can't use my real name on this post is because as a REALTOR, I am not allowed to speak out against the organization or I will be violating ethics...do you think thats ETHICAL? Come on wake up everybody!

Dave Kovaleski

Afraid of NAR, sorry but I question your intent. The NAR does a tremendous amount for the real estate industry and lobbies for us on soooo many topics that affect our business. The NAR is a tremendous tool that represents so many real estate agents. If not for the NAR our career and value woud be greatly in danger.

Dave Kovaleski

You don't need to be a REALTOR to get a real estate license in the US.

Mike Pannell

I still want to know how this guy keeps his url www. realtorsblvd. com/

Jenna Ryan

Because if you push it far enough, you can win the right to use "Realtor" in your domain name. It takes an attorney.

Brandon

Maybe its not a huge issue, but hardly a "meaningless waste of time". If your "city realtor" was searched 30 times a day, and you ranked in top 5, would you want that taken away?

ConfessionsOfARealtor

Whether you are a Member of the National Association of Realtors of NOT they will bully you into taking your name. The Real Estate Cartel (Realtor) is a Billion Dollar business

My Domain Names Were very good and ranked high, I let them go and now the Registrar is still ALLOWED to sell them... why?

I let go of 200 names with Realtor in the Name and I was a Real Estate Broker owner and member of the association of Realtors. Know your Rights and STAND UP to the Real Estate Cartel, the Real Estate Mafia known as "Realtor" .. the NAR provides NO protection to the Real Estate Consumer and Bullys the Realtors who work faithfully like Soldiers for them. Email me your story about the Association of Realtors at Crystal@SavvyBroker.com

Realtors DO violate anti-trust laws everyday, they are "self" governed and Realtors Legally Lie on Every Real Estate Transaction.

Morgan Carey

Wow someone is a hater lol - $75 to subscribe to your blog? No thanks!

Morgan Carey

"I have put EVERYTHING into gathering this information.

I have faced huges expense and adversary all along the way."

Btw you might want to put some more "huges expenses" into having someone edit that peice of garbage you call a website.

Brian Mc

well now you made me go look at it, oh the humanity.

Nicole Boynton

I knew about not using "REALTOR" in your domain name but even in a class with an attorney from the Texas Real Estate Commission last week they never mentioned blog or forum nicknames. Thank you for giving me this additional information (even if you originally did so in '07!) I will make sure to pass along this information to my office.

OCTeam

Apparently, someone was a "huges" failure in the real estate business. I just had to take a peek at that site and I am now sorry I did. That is a stellar piece of work!

CarlosM

Great Post! yep.. not really have to be a realtor to get a license.

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