Lately there has been an increase in the use of “Coming Soon” signs. This has led to people asking (or at least it should), “can the MLS® trademark be used in ‘coming soon’ advertisements?” You’ll be somewhat happy to know the answer to this is yes, if the mark is used in the correct form and context.
The first thing to note: the MLS® logo cannot be used in these advertisements. CREA’s Trademark Policy provides that the MLS® logo must never be combined with other words or design elements. Displaying the words “Coming Soon To” and then displaying the MLS® logo would not comply with the Trademark Policy. For this reason, “coming soon” advertisements should use the MLS® word mark.
Now let’s deal with the form rule, which provides that all letters of MLS® must be capitalized and the mark must be followed by the registered trademark symbol. Where possible, a trademark statement is required to accompany the use of the MLS® mark. Clearly there would not be room for such a statement on a yard sign, but if a REALTOR® member puts a coming soon claim that uses the MLS® mark on their website then they would need to have a trademark ownership statement somewhere on that webpage.
Next is the context rule. It provides that the MLS® marks must only be used to identify the professional services provided by members of CREA to effect the purchase and sale of real estate as part of a co-operative selling system. The MLS® marks must never be used as a synonym for a “database of real estate listings.” Complying with the context rule means the MLS® marks cannot be used with exclusive listings. However, as long as the listing in question will be placed on a Board’s MLS® System then a statement to that effect would be factual and would not raise concerns with the context rule.
It would, however, raise concerns if it were worded in a way that suggests the MLS® mark represents a data base of listings. For example, “coming soon to the MLS®” would imply that the MLS® mark represents a database and therefore would not be acceptable. The correct way to phrase this would be: “Coming soon to the Ottawa Real Estate Board’s MLS® System.” An advertisement like this would, as long as it is factual, satisfy the form and context rules for the MLS® marks.
For obvious reasons members may not want to use a long cumbersome phrase like “Coming Soon to the Ottawa Real Estate Board’s MLS® System.” I can’t imagine this fitting well on a for sale sign. This is why I only promised that you would be somewhat happy with my advice. Alternatively though, members could advertise “Coming Soon to REALTOR.ca.” This would not raise trademark concerns and this is a statement that consumers will understand.
Keep in mind that REALTOR® members who wish to advertise “coming soon” need to ensure that such claims comply with the regulation in their jurisdiction. Some regulators have expressed concern that a statement as short as “Coming Soon” is not allowed as it could be misleading. Members should also check municipal bylaws since there are areas of Canada where bylaws prohibit yard signs unless the property is actually for sale or for lease.
The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.