By now you've heard the news, aptly called The Stripes Heard Round the World in one of the many posts I've read over the last twenty four hours. Real estate marketing company The Lones Group filed a complaint against Daniel "Real Estate Zebra" Rothamel for his use of zebra-related branding and marketing.
Like most real estate industry professionals, I'm not a lawyer, so I won't comment on the merit of the suit or opine over what constitutes trademark infringement. Most agents who are posting about this are agreeing on one thing:
The Lones Group made a big mistake.
Daniel Rothamel is well known in the industry (particularly the real estate blogger subset) as the Real Estate Zebra. His knowledge of blogging and social media have made him a speaker, mentor, and guide to many of us. I relate to Daniel's branding because of our use of non-real estate items to help market ourselves and set us apart from others. I have know him as the Zebra since the day we met online. I think I even called him Zebra when I met him in real life. Daniel Rothamel and Real Estate Zebra are synonymous in my book.
What The Lones Group complaint has done is shed light on a company for all the wrong reasons. I had never heard of The Lones Group or its services, despite being the target market (a Realtor®) for them. Perhaps they are excellent at what they do. I won't ever know. While Daniel's friendship matters to me, there's more to it than that. I don't like lawsuits (in my rockstar days we were nearly sued to death at one point - preventing us from touring America for quite some time). I don't like lawsuits that seem (from my view) to be aimed at garnering a few bucks. Daniel works with consumers. The Lones Group works with Realtors®. Although one might argue they are in the same industry (real estate as a whole), they are doing two vastly different things.
While The Lones Group mounts their attack on the Real Estate Zebra, the social media world is abuzz with the news. Too bad for The Lones Group that it has mostly been negative. Knowing when your social capital is worth more than your trademark is the key in this one. Even if they were to win the lawsuit against Daniel, would it be worth the damage to their social capital? I know I won't be using their services anytime soon (in all fairness, I probably wouldn't anyway). Now, when I hear the name The Lones Group, I will forever be reminded of the day my friend, Daniel Rothamel, was sued. That's not an image I would want as a company. They might think it's no big deal, as I am just one person, but this sentiment is being echoed over and over again across the internet. Even a Google search for "lones group" is starting to be filled with posts like this one. Would you want that as your only search result? I wouldn't.
Two great posts written about the case:
"The Lones Group v. Rothamel: A case study in destroying your on-line reputation" - Jay Thompson (he's also building a list of blog posts, so this will be a great resource on the case as it goes on)
"The Lones Group Lesson: Destroying Your Brand Online" - Jeff Bernheisel (this is an excellent read and I think Jeff breaks down the case for "is it worth it" with great conviction)
And of course, I wrote a post over at RErockstar.com - "Lones Group sues Daniel “Real Estate Zebra” Rothamel"
You can see the entire complaint over at the Zebra Defense Fund (and make donations to Daniel's legal defense).
photo courtesy of mape_s
Need a #savethezebra badge for your ActiveRain blog? Get the code below and insert it in My Home>Settings>Blog Description. I will also be posting a Wordpress widget code for the #savethezebra badge (with PayPal link for donations) over at RErockstar.com (feel free to use and distribute).
HTML Code for ActiveRain Blogs - #savethezebra
<center><a href="http://www.zebradefensefund.com" title="Zebra Defense Fund" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.rerockstar.com/documents/zebra-defense-fund/save-the-zebra.jpg" title="Save The Zebra - Zebra Defense Fund" alt="#savethezebra"></a></center>
Cut and paste it into your blog sidebar.