Domain names
The value of real estate online, is clear. Photo – Canva.
  • The REA Group has successfully blocked a real estate trademark application
  • They (partially) won a case against realestate1.com.au in 2013
  • The recent case was against RealEstateStore.com.au

When I started an online property portal back in 1999 – they were called ‘dotcoms’ back then – we knew we had to come up with a good name.

What was interesting and ground-breaking at the time was the actual online shopfront of the business (the web address) was the same as the name of the business.

If you said “Amazon.com”, you knew both the company name and web address. You knew where to go, and what to do.

At the time, Property.com.au (later bought by the REA Group) and realestate.com.au (REA Group itself) were both taken, and operating.

We liked ‘aussiehome’. Search for your next ‘Aussie home’ here. It was a nice fit.

Searching on domain buying sites, we saw that ‘aussiehome.com’ was available, so we bought it. A few weeks later, we also bought ‘aussiehome.com.au’ as by then we had a company with the same name, so could apply for the Australian ‘.com.au’ domain.

We trademarked our logo, a distinctive graphic with a colourful Hills Hoist style imagery. For the next ten years, we traded as ‘aussiehome.com’ until we were acquired by the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA).

REA actions

The REA Group are a now publicly listed company worth more than A$20 billion. So they would (understandably) want to protect their brand.

In 2013, they took legal action against ‘realestate1.com.au’, an Australian property listings site with a very similar name and web address.

In the ruling, the realestate1 company was not found guilty of passing itself off per se, as their logos and web address were very different, but that the trademark was too close to realestate.com.au’s domain and name, and could confuse some visitors.

Last month, the REA Group won another case, this time objecting to a trademark application for ‘Real Estate Store’.

Looking at the two logos side by side, you can probably see why:

REA and Real Estate Store logos

 

In the ruling on 4 March 2021, Hearing Officer, Katrina Brown, said:

“I am satisfied on the evidence before me that the Opponent [REA Group] has a pattern of brand extension in which the arrow device is a prominent feature. 

“… I am satisfied that there is a real and tangible danger that consumers would, at the very least, be caused to wonder as to the existence of some sort of connection between the goods and services bearing the Opponent’s Trade Mark and those bearing the Trade Mark.”

Katrina Brown, Hearing Officer, Trademarks and Designs

It is important to note that REA Group was not trying to prevent the applicant from registering “realestatestore.com.au”. It was the logo that REA Group were opposing. The similarities were too great. The use of the arrow graphic, the red in the word ‘store’, even the font used were all too similar.

As of the time of writing, there is no website at realestatestore.com.au. The (literal) value of real estate, online, and the importance of trademark protection, is clear.

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