How to properly use the MLS® trademark

After writing an article setting out simple rules for how to use the REALTOR® trademark, people have been asking me if I have simple rules for using the MLS® mark. Well, here it goes, Keeping It Simple Stupid (KISS) guidelines with MLS®.

If you’re wondering if you’re using the MLS® mark incorrectly the answer is probably yes. Don’t take it personally. I review a lot of websites and almost all of them use the MLS® mark incorrectly. That’s probably because Canadians are constantly exposed to companies, websites, and marketing materials in the United States where the MLS® mark is not a registered trademark. In Canada, we’re lucky to have a registration over the MLS® trademark. But that means you need to use the mark in the correct form and context.

Form rule

MLS® must be used with the M, L, and S capitalized followed immediately by the registered trademark symbol. Unlike the REALTOR® mark, there are no exceptions to this rule. Use “MLS®” just like that, and you’ll be in compliance with the form rule.

Context rule

The MLS® mark must only be used to identify services provided by REALTORS® to affect the purchase and sale of real estate as part of a co-operative selling system. MLS® must never be used as a synonym for a database. This means you can say, “I provide MLS® services” or “I can show you some MLS® listings.” However, you cannot say, “search the MLS®”, “I can list on MLS®”, or “coming soon to MLS®.” All these phrases imply the MLS® mark identifies a database instead of co-operative services.

If you want to refer to a real estate board’s MLS® System, which contains a database of listings, you can say: “I can post on CREB®’s MLS® System” or “search the MLS® System of the Toronto Real Estate Board.” Of course, if you don’t belong to CREB® or TREB I’m assuming you’ll insert your own board name here.

Trademark statement

The trademark statement is to be added to all marketing materials using the MLS® mark where possible. Unlike REALTOR®, there’s only one statement you can use: “The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA.”

That’s it. Use MLS® in exactly that form, use it only to refer to co-operative real estate services, and add the trademark statement. If you follow these rules, you’ll be using the MLS® mark correctly.

If you want to go beyond KISSing you can. Not in the way you’re thinking though! You can get more complicated and use the Multiple Listing Service® mark or the MLS® logo but check the Trademark Manual to make sure you’re complying with the rules first.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Allison McLure, former Legal Counsel, provided advice to CREA, boards, and associations on intellectual property law, DDF®, and Canada’s anti-spam legislation, as well as protected CREA’s trademarks and helped members comply with federal legislation and CREA’s trademark rules.


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