December 12th - 2010

REALTOR® trademark is a valuable asset

One of the benefits of being a member of organized real estate is the right to call yourself a REALTOR®.

One of the benefits of being a member of organized real estate is the right to call yourself a REALTOR®. The term REALTOR® lets people know you have reached a higher standard in the profession, that you are a member of a professional association and abide by a strict code of ethics. Only members of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) are licensed to use the REALTOR® trademark.

Protecting the REALTOR® trademark as well as MLS® and other CREA-owned trademarks through proper usage is important to maintain the value they extend to members. While trademarks can be worth a lot of money, their true worth is measured more in the value they bring to your reputation as a broker or salesperson. Trademarks used correctly are associated with standards of high quality or care and the public looks upon these marks as a guarantee of repeated high quality and care.  CREA, on behalf of REALTORS®, makes great efforts to preserve and protect its trademarks in the public eye through its National Advertising Campaign. Trademarks such as Band-Aid, Xerox and Kleenex among others have been successfully preserved through this type of advertising, combined with constant vigilance.

Not only is the proper form of the REALTOR® trademark important, the context of its use is also critical because it protects the distinctive meaning of the term REALTOR®.  Keep in mind that REALTOR® must be used to mean membership in CREA, not to describe a vocation or profession. For example, an expression like 'John Doe is a registered Realtor' is incorrect for two reasons. Firstly, because REALTOR® is not capitalized with the ® symbol, and secondly, because the adjective ‘registered' gives the trademark a generic meaning. Such generic use is improper and can weaken the mark.

Common infractions
CREA’s REALTOR® Code has a specific section – Article 26 – to deal with trademark infractions. But, despite the potential sanctions associated with a breach of Article 26, according to CREA’s legal department, trademark errors are all too common. The mistakes they see most often involve improper use of domain names where MLS® is used in the URL or a Web address that uses REALTOR® improperly such as www.joethesuperrealtor.com. In an effort to educate members and help them to comply with trademark rules, CREA has a trademark manual called The REALTOR®’s Guide to the Proper Use of CREA’s Trademarks. This comprehensive resource for trademark information, including licensing, use and protection of the REALTOR® trademark, is available online at www.realtorlink.ca.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of trademark usage from CREA’s trademark manual:

REALTOR®

Only members of The Canadian Real Estate Association are allowed to use the REALTOR® marks in reference to themselves or their real estate business. If the phrase "member of The Canadian Real Estate Association" cannot be logically substituted for the term REALTOR®, then the term REALTOR® must not be used. Also, REALTOR® must never be used as a synonym for a broker, salesperson, or any other real estate professional job.

  1. The correct use of the word REALTOR® or REALTORS® is all capitals, followed by the registered ® symbol.
  2. The term REALTOR® or REALTORS® cannot form any part of a firm name, incorporated business name or business logo.
  3. The term REALTOR® can be used in email and website addresses, but only in conjunction with your name or your firm’s name, such as johnjones-realtor.ca and johnjones-realtor@sympatico.ca, NOT muskokarealtor.ca or superrealtor@rogers.com.

MLS® and Multiple Listing Service®

  1. MLS® is a trademark registered to identify the standard of services rendered by members of CREA (i.e., REALTORS®) and means so much more than a system of selling properties. The mark is never to be used as a noun and never to be used to mean a “database”. “I put my listing on the MLS®” offends both of these rules and should never be used.
  2. One of the tools used by REALTORS® in providing MLS® services is their board's MLS® System – and that is the proper terminology to be used when describing the co-operative selling system operated by a real estate board. “I put my listing on TREB’s MLS® System” is proper usage of the MLS® trademark. CREA's Rules for Use of the MLS® mark state that this mark must only be used in reference to real estate boards and not any other databases. For example, “Search the Toronto Real Estate Board's MLS® system listings” would be a correct use.
  3. Only a real estate board is licensed to use the MLS® trademark in association with its co-operative selling systems. Therefore, when referring to an “MLS® system” you must always be referring to a real estate board’s MLS® System. No other property database can be identified with the MLS® marks.
  4. The MLS® logo – “the three houses” – must never be altered or combined with any other logos, or be used to create a ‘new’ MLS® logo.
  5. The MLS® “three-houses” logos and www.mls.ca hyperlink cannot be used as a link to the www.REALTOR.ca Web site (formerly www.mls.ca) – there is a special “REALTOR.ca” button for that purpose, available on the REALTOR Link® website.
  6. The initials MLS® and the term Multiple Listing Service® must never be used as part of an individual member’s website domain name or email address.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246