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Trademark Protection Program

Trademark Protection Program

Member Boards Are Also Responsible for Trademark Protection Program

Misuse by a Member

Unauthorized Use by a Non-Member

Misuse by the Media

Unauthorized Use by a Franchise or Conglomerate Organization

Unauthorized Use on Merchandise, Publications, or Services

Obtain Written Assurance of Compliance

Enforcement Action

NAR May File Complaint with Member Board

NAR May Initiate Legal Action


NAR has established a comprehensive Trademark Protection Program that is designed to ensure that the MARKS are used only by or in reference to members of NAR and Member Boards and that all uses of the MARKS are proper in form and context. NAR maintains the MARKS through registrations with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, monitors the internet for proper use, and creates new ways to bring awareness to association staff, members, and the general public.

The goals of the Trademark Protection Program are to preserve the federal trademark registration, create and increase the value of goodwill, and maintain the original intended purpose and meaning of the MARKS. In order to achieve these goals, misuses of the MARKS must be recognized, identified, and corrected.

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Member Boards Are Also Responsible for Trademark Protection Program

NAR Bylaws require each Member Board to cooperate and coordinate with NAR in any and all attempts to halt or prevent any unauthorized or improper use of the MARKS. Member Boards are responsible for ensuring that their members use the MARKS in compliance with the license set forth in the NAR Constitution and Bylaws and the policies and guidelines set forth in this Manual. To achieve this, each Member Board should assist in familiarizing its members with the policies and guidelines in this Manual by conducting education sessions for current members and by covering this topic in new member orientation.

NAR created a brief, animated video about how association staff can help protect the REALTOR® trademarks. Click here to watch it on REALTOR.org.

Under NAR’s Trademark Protection Program, Member Boards have two specific responsibilities:

  • First, a Member Board must be familiar with this Manual so it can recognize misuses of the MARKS by its members or by non-members.
  • Second, a Member Board must accept reports of trademark misuses and take steps outlined here to rectify the problems.

In many cases, a simple letter from the Member Board explaining the violation to the person misusing the MARKS will result in cooperation and compliance by such person.

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Misuse by a Member

When a Member Board learns that one of its members is misusing a MARK, the Member Board should conduct an initial investigation to obtain as much of the following information as possible:

  • A description or copy of the alleged misuse;
  • The person or firm responsible for the use;
  • The contact information of such person or firm;
  • The date of the use and where it appeared; and
  • Whether the use is continuing.

Upon receipt of this information, the Member Board should contact the member to describe the registered status and special meaning of the MARK and request that the misuse cease promptly. Members should also be reminded that their right to use the MARKS is limited to use in connection with their real estate business and must adhere to the policies and guidelines set forth in this Manual. Members often respond positively to such written reminders and correct their misuse. A sample letter that can be sent by a Member Board regarding a member’s misuse of a MARK is available at the end of this Manual.

A copy of all correspondence sent or received by the Member Board relating to a misuse of the MARKS should also be sent to NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator at trademark@realtors.org. If the matter cannot be resolved locally or if an impasse develops, NAR may assume primary responsibility for obtaining compliance.

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Unauthorized Use by a Non-Member

Non-members are never authorized to use the MARKS in reference to or in connection with their businesses or themselves. One should recognize, however, that certain uses of the MARKS are not unauthorized uses but rather permissible nominal uses, such as when newspapers, magazines, or radio or television programs use the MARKS to accurately and properly identify an individual as a member of NAR or in reference to a Member Board. Such nominal uses should be reviewed to be sure the MARKS are used in the proper form and context.

When a Member Board learns that a non-member is using a MARK, it should send a letter to the unauthorized user explaining that the MARK is a federally registered collective membership mark owned by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® that is reserved for the exclusive use by or in reference to members of NAR, and demanding that the unauthorized use cease promptly. A sample letter that can be sent by a Member Board to a non-member misusing a MARK is available at the end of this Manual.

A copy of all correspondence sent or received by the Member Board relating to a misuse of the MARKS should also be sent to NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator via email to trademark@realtors.org. If the matter cannot be resolved locally or if an impasse develops, NAR may assume primary responsibility for obtaining compliance.

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Misuse by the Media

It is the duty of each Member Board to notify editors, publishers, and broadcasters of their improper uses of the MARKS in television, radio, and print media. The media must be reminded periodically that the MARKS identify members of NAR and that the term REALTOR® is not synonymous with “real estate broker,” “broker,” or “real estate agent.” The media must also be advised of the registered status of the MARKS and requested to use initial capital letters to distinguish the terms REALTOR® and REALTORS® from words of ordinary use.

In the event a Member Board discovers a misuse of the MARKS in the media, it should send a letter to the media outlet providing notification of the misuse and seeking a correction to be issued. A sample letter that can be sent by a Member Board regarding a misuse by the media is also available at the end of this Manual.

A copy of all correspondence sent or received by the Member Board relating to a misuse of the MARKS should also be sent to NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator via email to trademark@realtors.org. If the matter cannot be resolved locally or if an impasse develops, NAR may assume primary responsibility for obtaining compliance.

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Unauthorized Use by a Franchise or Conglomerate Organization

In the event a Member Board discovers a franchisor or conglomerate organization to be using the MARKS in conjunction with its franchise or other business activities, the Member Board should notify NAR so NAR can address the unauthorized use. All relevant documentation or other materials explaining and evidencing such use should be forwarded to NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator at trademark@realtors.org.

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Unauthorized Use on Merchandise, Publications, or Services

In the event a Member Board discovers a product, publication, or service bearing the MARKS and is unsure whether the producer of such product, publication, or service is authorized to use the MARKS pursuant to this Manual, the Member Board should notify NAR so NAR can resolve the matter. All relevant documentation or other materials explaining and evidencing such use should be forwarded to NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator at trademark@realtors.org.

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Obtain Written Assurance of Compliance

In many cases, the Member Board's initial communication to misusers of the MARKS will achieve the desired result:  the misuser will agree to correct or terminate the misuse and provide the Member Board with a written assurance of compliance. In other cases, however, the misuser may refuse to comply, ignore the Member Board's requests, or promise, but never deliver compliance.

If the misuser agrees to comply with the Member Board’s request, the Member Board should confirm the agreement in writing and thank the misuser for the prompt cooperation. If the misuser agrees to comply, but refuses to provide a written confirmation of compliance, the Member Board should make a detailed record of the situation (i.e., name of misuser, date, time of day, summary of the discussion noting verbatim assurances of compliance given and the proposed timetable for compliance).

A copy of all correspondence sent or received by the Member Board relating to a misuse of the MARKS should also be sent to NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator at trademark@realtors.org.

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Enforcement Action

If a Member Board does not receive a written confirmation of compliance from the misuser within one month of the date that the Member Board's first letter was sent, the Member Board should request assistance from NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator who will work with NAR’s Legal Affairs Department to obtain written compliance from the misuser.

In addition to investigating complaints received from Member Boards, NAR’s Trademark Protection Coordinator receives and responds to misuses reported by members, the public, and trademark monitoring services. Because NAR believes that voluntary compliance is the most beneficial and cost- effective way of protecting and maintaining the MARKS, it has implemented a written cease and desist process to encourage compliance by misusers. However, if compliance or a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, NAR will initiate a complaint against a member with her Member Board or take legal action as necessary.

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NAR May File Complaint with Member Board

A member’s failure to adhere to NAR’s rules regarding proper use of the MARKS constitutes a violation of that member’s duties of membership in the Member Board. If a member refuses to comply with NAR’s requests to correct a misuse, the Member Board’s Grievance Committee or NAR may file a complaint against the member for violation of a membership duty.

If the Member Board’s Professional Standards Committee finds a violation, then the member may be disciplined consistent with Section 14 of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, including but not limited to possible suspension or termination of membership or MLS privileges.

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NAR May Initiate Legal Action

If a misuser refuses to comply with NAR’s request for compliance, NAR may initiate legal action. Such action could take the form of a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in state or federal court. NAR has been successful in obtaining court orders against infringers ordering that they cease and desist misuse of the MARKS and, in many cases, pay NAR damages relating to the infringement and costs associated with the lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees.

In addition to other legal actions NAR may pursue, NAR may file a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) complaint against an individual or company that is misusing a MARK in a domain name. When registering a domain name, every website operator agrees to arbitrate disputes regarding the domain name via the UDRP process. Information about the UDRP process is available on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers website at: http://www.icann.org/en/help/dndr/udrp. NAR has had success using the UDRP process whereby infringers have been ordered to cease use and transfer ownership of the infringing domain name to NAR.

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