I’m barely a blogger.
I might write 50 to 60 posts a year. That’s nothing in blogger world, and certainly not something I do for SEO. I have 500+ Twitter followers, and after three years on there, that’s pretty ready evidence that I’m not that into it to have that few. I’m frankly too busy with clients and too obsessive with my service delivery systems to spend time daily diligently plugging away writing SEO-powered marketing. I could. I just don’t.
But I know well the awesome power of word of mouth. I know who I trust. I know that trust is earned, and easily lost. I know I like Daniel Rothamel, one of the first two dozen people I started following on Twitter. I know I like Jay Thompson, one of the first three dozen I started following on Twitter. I know I like their friend Mizzle, my contemporary in the Colorado Springs market who I also started following immediately.
Why point out that I’ve followed these people on Twitter for three years? Because they’re relevant. They’re easy to find. They’re worth following. I’m smarter and better at what I do because of what they’ve shared online.
And because Daniel Rothamel is being sued for using the moniker “The Real Estate Zebra” that is apparently a copyrighted name in the state of Washington by an organization called “The Lones Group.” That’s right, in cyber-land, one agent is being sued for $75,000 in damages by a company that provides marketing services… to Realtors.
I won’t go on for the epic 1800+ words Jay Thompson did (and really, if you’re a real estate broker or care at all about social media, you must spend five minutes and read Jay’s post about this matter here. He’s close friends with Daniel and has set up a legal defense fund. He’s funny. He’s smart. And he’s dead-on). Jay’s point is that Lones Group did more to destroy their online reputation in an afternoon then they could possibly recoup in damages; damages that are baseless and illegitimate.
But just for a moment, I want to have a little fun with this, for Daniel’s benefit. Like Mr. Thompson, I had never heard of Lones’ Group’s Real Estate Zebra product(s?) or thought of them as a premier authority on… anything… and frankly, I would rate Daniel Rothamel as a premier authority on real estate education and leadership. So seeing someone who due to merit and permission asset deserves their business and fame, being attacked by someone who uses the same imagery and claims a copyright, but is hardly relevant, that gets me mad. But one of the major laughing points in the suit against Rothamel is something about “Lones Trade Dress”. Apparently, “Lones is well known for its distinctive trade dress used in connection with these services (the “Lones Trade Dress”), which features an image of a zebra and zebra stripes.”
Really? I read that to mean they dress in Zebra-themed attire, and are the only ones legally allowed to do that and talk about real estate. Are zebras that distinctive?
So if I sell real estate, talk about real estate, blog about real estate, teach about real estate, I violate Lones Trade Dress if I wear one of these? That’s $19.95 that I better not expense, because I’m looking at a $75,000 lawsuit from someone in Bellingham, Washington.
Ladies, you might think it’s confidence you’re embodying when you slip on a pair of knee-high zebra-print boots. You’d be mistaken. You need to stay away from that website that is exclusively devoted to zebra-print footwear, and keep those out of your professional life. Your confidence isn’t worth a $75,000 lawsuit. In fact, that website ought to carry a
sizable disclaimer to the entire 1.1 million members of the National Association of REALTORS warning them that wearing of any of these products is a hazard known to the State of Washington, isolated premier real estate bloggers and marketing pioneers of the real estate revolution, and other individuals willing to sacrifice their online reputation, et al.
Maybe the most shocking part of this, is how little research these sue-happy folks did in forming their lawsuit. Why is Daniel Rothamel the Real Estate Zebra? Because he’s a basketball referee. I can’t make this up. The dude likes his ball, and likes to give freely of his time as a basketball referee. There is no way he is paid anywhere near the value he gives of his time to this cause. And the two things go hand in hand, real estate refereeing and basketball. I hope some of the parents at his games ask for his card after he gives their son/daughter a technical. Seriously. He’s helping kids learn major life lessons in a pretty un-self-serving way. “Hi, I’m Daniel and I’ll be ref’ing tonight. During the day, I’m a real estate broker. I’m doing this game with Tina. She’s a plumber.” Thus the title of this post… “Hey Zebra, that’s not a foul!”
This is from Daniel’s own blog site (where he is about the only blogger I know who so deliberately lays out very ethical and legal rules about blogging): Aside from being a REALTOR, I am also a basketball official. I officiate High School basketball in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and NCAA D-III basketball in two conferences. I love officiating, and I love real estate, and The Real Estate Zebra is my way of sharing it. The things that I have learned through officiating have helped me tremendously in real estate, and vice versa. I love to help people, and I love to educate and inform people. Hopefully, I will be able to successfully do both, while keeping you entertained along the way.
Yep. That’s a pretty deep threat to an organization providing marketing services TO the real estate industry 2800 miles away. Let’s get this delinquent off the streets. Light ’em up. Send out the subpoena’s. He’s a $25,000 treble damage threat. I hate to calculate the emotional suffering he’s inflicting.
There is a part of me that’s afraid of the legal ramifications of this suit. I go by the handle Benny Moo. Yep, that’s a goofy, triple-edged reference to the evangelist Benny Hinn, Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, and my Twitter Handle COSBenny. I thought of BennyMoo in 2007; I laughed out loud and checked the URL; it was available; I ran with it. I also have my name URL’ed: www.BenjaminDay.com. Do a Google search of me and my name DOES NOT come up right away. The godfather of American printing was Benjamin Day and Wikipedia beats my butt every day. I also can’t use Ben Day as a Twitter Handle, because there’s a pretty decent bloke who rides bikes from Down Under named Ben Day. I follow him on Twitter, but he doesn’t follow me. Stinker. I also can’t use BenDay.com because that Ben Day iss a cool dude in Boston who runs a consulting company. We used to get emails for each other. But I better tread with caution over the use of my name, because apparently, the legal minefield is deep and the opportunity to be seen as a confusing competitor deliberately attempting to maliciously direct business from it’s legitimate to my nefarious source. Because I blog, and that might be confused with 19th century printing production, and since that’s kind of technology, it’s easy to confuse that with software development, and because I every now and then go over the handle bars in Ute Valley Park and say something about it on Facebook, I might be impersonating someone more famous than me who shaves his legs and wears spandex for a living.
Hannah and I use Pikes Peak in our brand, PikesPeakUrbanLiving.com. We
might want to reconsider autumn tree imagery. Or mentioning anything Urban. Or Life as we know it. Let alone Purple Mountain Majesty. The opportunity for being served seems to lurk at every corner.
I’ve published something called “The Stat Pack” since 2006, a collection of real estate market data. CBS Sports started showing their in-game fantasy football stats sometime in 2007 as “Stat Pack.” CBS is worth billions. Maybe I ought to sue them? A lesson I learned from Steve Dallas, the slimy attorney of Bloom County fame: Never Sue Poor People. Now if I can just prove I thought of Stat Pack first. I can’t tell you how the emotional suffering I get watching football is strictly tied to this, and not the Broncos 19-29 record over the last three years…
I could live in fear of a lawsuit. I could. Or I could promote solidarity with Daniel and do what I encourage you to do: wear black and white on Wednesdays until this suit is thrown out.
We need leaders. We need inventive personalities. We need Daniel Rothamels. And we can’t have clueless ninnies who lack a permission asset sue someone else because they share the same love of a horse’s cousin and use it for logo purposes.
Hmmm… I have a tuxedo I never wear in my closet. I think I need a Zebra cummerbund for it this Wednesday….