LendingTree LLC and real estate companies that are a part of Parsippany, N.J.-based Realogy, the independent company that was formerly Cendant Corp.’s real estate division, have agreed to dismiss all claims relating to a 3-year-old lawsuit that alleged illegal use of real estate brand names.
Century 21 Real Estate Corp., Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. and ERA Franchise Systems had filed a lawsuit against LendingTree in June 2003 alleging trademark infringement for the company’s use of affiliated brand names on its Web site.
The use of these brand names by LendingTree, the lawsuit alleged, could cause consumer confusion about the affiliation of those brands.
“Each party has dismissed all claims and counterclaims, no monetary payments are to be made and there will be no conduct restrictions on any company,” LendingTree officials announced today.
Tom Reddin, CEO for LendingTree LLC, said in a statement, “We are pleased to see this case come to a successful close. We have always felt our use of these names accurately described members of our real estate networks and are now fully vindicated in our belief that we have always acted in a lawful, fair and non-misleading manner.”
Mark Panus, a spokesman for Realogy Corp., said in a statement today that while the lawsuit was dismissed, “we disagree with LendingTree’s characterization of the merits of our claims.”
He added, “We have an obligation to protect our trademarks. Anyone who uses our trademarks for any purpose in the absence of our express authorization will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, and that includes LendingTree should they unlawfully use our trademarks in the future.”
The U.S. District Court for New Jersey had issued a preliminary injunction against LendingTree in late 2003 to prevent the company’s use of Cendant’s real estate brands at its site, though a judge for the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the trial court “erred in granting the injunction in Cendant’s favor,” and lifted that injunction.
The appellate court also found that Cendant companies faced the burden of proving the likelihood that consumers would be confused because of LendingTree’s use of the Cendant (now Realogy) brand names, and sent the case back to district court for further proceedings.
Cendant companies “presented no evidence of actual confusion before the district court. Therefore, this factor should clearly weigh in favor of (LendingTree),” the appellate court judge stated in October 2005.
LendingTree, based in Charlotte, N.C., is a part of Barry Diller’s IAC Financial Services and Real Estate company, which is a part of InterActiveCorp. LendingTree operates a lending exchange, a mortgage company, a real estate lead-generation network and through its RealEstate.com brand operates real estate brokerages in several states.