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Re/Max sues CBS over TV realty sign

November 10, 2002|From Inman News Features and other wire reports

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" may be one of the most popular shows on television, but not with the corporate types at Re/Max International in Colorado.

Re/Max has filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver against the CBS television network and its owner, Viacom. The suit alleges trademark infringement in the Oct. 10 episode in which a real estate agent used a yard sign similar in design to the Re/Max sign. The sign is visible when an investigator says, "These slimes will do anything to sell a home," according to the complaint.

The suit also said the portrayal of an unethical real estate agent -- suspected of robbery, pornography and homicide -- damaged the company's reputation.

CBS says it believes the allegations are without value. "We're very confident that the lawsuit does not have any merit," said Nancy Carr, a spokeswoman for the network.

Re/Max co-founder Dave Liniger said the company has protected its trademark rights for 30 years. "We are not a litigious organization," he said. "But, we have an obligation to more than 76,000 Re/Max agents worldwide to prevent others from using any of our trademarks."

Last year, the Greenwood Village, Colo., company reached an agreement with EBay to remove a similar red, white and blue sign from TV commercials. Earlier this year, the real estate franchise company raised the trademark infringement question against a for-sale-by-owner services company, which changed its Web site and yard signs.

In addition to the similar sign, the suit against CBS and Viacom alleges that the trademark term "Realtor" was misused on the yard sign and in the script. Liniger said that the Re/Max legal team has sent a copy of the lawsuit to the lawyers at the National Assn. of Realtors, which owns the trademark.

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