In Canada, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) filed a trademark on the brand, MLS®. To avert a long winded discussion of the implications – think of it as a trademark that provides CREA with all of the rights that the REALTOR® trademark provides to the National Association of REALTORS®. It was a brilliant move that prohibits anyone from using the term MLS® in Canada. In Canada, only.
MLS®, Multiple Listing Service®, and the associated logos are all registered certification marks owned by CREA and are used to identify real estate services provided by brokers and salespersons who are members of CREA.
In America, the early colonists of MLS data did not seek such protections under United States Trademark law. As a result, the term MLS is not much different than the term Property Search. It is a common use word that may be adopted by anyone in marketing or otherwise.
This has created a problem whereby some cleaver marketers are using the term MLS to falsely lure consumers who are seeking information about real estate listings and real estate services. Because there is no trademark protection, there is little that the real estate industry can do. Their only effort was to pass a NAR rule forbidding any REALTOR® from using the term. This effort has largely stopped REALTORS® from using the term, but non-realtors are free to do as they please.
ICANN, the global policy maker on Internet Domain Names recognized that they are running out of possible Dot Com domain names on the Internet. This is astounding – but lets leave that appreciation aside. ICANN recognizes that there is benefit to creating classes of top level domains (TLD) on the internet. For example, Dot Gov relates to government; Dot Edu relates to education; Dot Sex relates to…well you get the picture. These classes help consumers access websites with information on the Internet and provide the surety that the domain names are sincere. The Dot MLS Domains Association submitted an application for the top level domain of MLS in an order to create a benefit for consumers and real estate professionals to differentiate property search online. If successful, Dot MLS would effectively provide benefits which are similar to those that CREA enjoys with their MLS® Trademark.
Dot MLS formed the association of MLS operators to raise funding for the application fees and legal costs required in petitioning ICANN for a top level domain. Unless someone submits a petition to ICANN that is more worthy than Dot MLS, they will prevail. Initially, it was feared that the Major League Soccer (also MLS) might be a contender. However, after observing the efforts in America, CREA emerged as a competitive petition offering ICANN the same plea for a TLD.
For the many volunteers and investors in Dot MLS, the news of CREAs petition dealt a heart felt blow. CREAs petition to ICANN has all of the same fundamental reasons for being awarded the Dot MLS TLD but they have the extra force of their Trademark. ICANN has been very diligent in prohibiting anyone from being granted a TLD for someone else’s’ trademark. I was planning on petitioning for the TLDs of Dot Apple, Dot Microsoft, Dot Google, and others – but this policy shot me down.
Fortunately, the Dot MLS Domains Association contacted their brethren to the north and reached an accord. CREA and Dot MLS Domains Association have joined together in their petition to ICANN. Together they have a well funded and solid application that will hopefully prevail.
It is worth mentioning that MIBOR had a different solution in mind to cure this problem. They figured that they would change the term from MLS to BLC®. They trademarked the term BLC®, and own the domain name, BLC.com.
To clarify, MIBOR conceived BLC® and Broker Listing Cooperative® to:
1) recapture the culture of a cooperative for its brokers and agents, and
2) to set apart the uniqueness of the listing cooperative to consumers from other conglomerate data sets so readily available today. MLS is widely misrepresented in the mix of property advertising and databases. That misrepresentation is harmful to REALTORS®.
Like the pride and protection afforded to members through the REALTOR® brand, the BLC® brand distinguishes REALTORS® from non-REALTORS® and reinforces the cooperative nature of the industry.
My deepest and sincere apologies if I missed an (r) somewhere in this article. I tried my best.