Well-known Minnesota broker Kris Lindahl sued Canada-based RE/MAX broker Rob Golfi on Friday for using his signature ‘open arms’ pose. Lindahl is seeking undisclosed damages for alleged trademark infringement.

It’s often said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; however, famed Twin Cities broker Kris Lindahl‘s recent lawsuit against a former group coaching client proves it’s anything but.

Lindahl is currently locked in a trademark infringement case against RE/MAX Golfi Realty broker-owner Rob Golfi, who started using Lindahl’s signature arms outstretched pose in his marketing after attending one of Lindahl’s branding seminars in May 2021.

“KLRE is one of Minnesota’s top real estate brokerages,” the 44-page suit states. “Built on the tireless efforts and ensuing successes of its CEO, Kris Lindahl, KLRE’s billboards and other advertisements are instantly recognized throughout Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, and even areas of Colorado. This is in no small part due to the substantial time and dollars invested in KLRE’s marketing and branding efforts.”

“Indeed, today, no Minnesotan can drive through the Twin Cities without seeing a KLRE billboard or bus advertisement displaying Mr. Lindahl performing his signature ‘Arms Outstretched’ pose,” the suit added. “It goes without saying that this pose is an integral part of KLRE’s marketing campaign.”

Lindahl’s lawyers said Golfi began using the pose in October 2021, when the Canadian broker posted a Halloween-themed graphic on his company’s Facebook page. The graphic is an illustration of Golfi as a vampire with his arms wide open (cue Creed) and the words, “Golfi gets it sold.”

A few weeks later, Golfi began posting selfies with clients doing the same pose and even incorporated it into his Christmas 2021 fundraising campaign for small local businesses. From there, Golfi began making the pose an integral part of his branding, including placements on city buses and billboards — which caught the attention of passersby who were familiar with Lindahl’s marketing.

“There are Kris Lindahl knockoff billboards in Niagara, Canada?” read a screenshot of a tweet Lindahl’s lawyers included in the suit as proof of Lindahl’s trademark claim.

In addition to eerily similar billboard and bus ads, Lindahl said Golfi copied his May 2019 ‘Campaign for Convenience’ advertisement video. In addition to copying the political press conference theme, Golfi also rehashed Lindahl’s speech in the video nearly word for word.

 

Lindahl’s speech reads as follows:

“Many Thanks. Many Thanks. We need real estate by people, by people and for people. I’ll get you a quote in 48 hours or less, guaranteed, not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult. Don’t ask what you can do for your agent, ask your agent what they can do for you. The only thing we have to fear is cleaning up and tidying up.

Read my lips: No open houses.

Today I am officially announcing my relief campaign. The American people deserve the opportunity to get a guaranteed listing for their home that will sell in 48 hours or less. Free from cleaning, decluttering and open house.

Are you with me? Are you with me?”

Then in Golfi’s video, which seems to have been removed from social media in light of the suit, the broker says this:

“Many Thanks. Many Thanks. We need real estate by people, by people and for people. I’ll get you a quote in 48 hours or less, guaranteed, not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult. Don’t ask what you can do for your agent, ask your agent what they can do for you. The only thing we have to fear is cleaning up and tidying up.

Read my lips: Golfi gets it sold.

Today I am officially announcing my relief campaign. Canadians deserve the opportunity to get a guaranteed listing for their home that will sell in 48 hours or less. Free from stress, inconvenience and hassle.

My promise to you is unmatched marketing to help you get the best price on your home.

Are you with me? Are you with me?”

Side-by-side comparison of Lindahl and Golfi’s advertisements from the lawsuit.

Golfi’s politics-themed advertisement was the last straw for Lindahl, who sent a cease and desist letter to Golfi in February 2022 with a reminder of the agreement Golfi allegedly signed at Lindahl’s branding conference.

“Golfi Realty made these advertisements despite Mr. Golfi executing a written agreement prohibiting him and his representatives from using any of KLRE’s proprietary concepts, materials, and intellectual property presented at the seminar without authorization,” the suit read.

However, Golfi denied attending the conference and signing an agreement. When Lindahl’s team sent proof of Golfi’s attendance and acknowledgment of conference rules, Golfi’s team said his signature “does not appear authentic.”

Lindahl’s team said they have two pending trademark applications for the pose, and that Lindahl Realty, LLC owns all right, title, and interest in and to the Arms Outstretched Marks — as the company has also been known as the ‘Arms Out Real Estate Company’ since 2017.

A screenshot of KLRE’s Google search result.

“This lawsuit is for breach of contract and copyright infringement, stemming from a video and other intellectual property the defendant plagiarised from Kris Lindahl Real Estate,” Lindahl told Twin Cities news outlet Fox 9 on Monday. “Doing so is not only against the law but also breached a contract the defendant signed with us to not copy our intellectual property.”

“In this case, taking legal action was a last resort, and it followed our repeated requests and efforts to resolve the situation outside of court,” he added. “We brought this action to stand up for the hard work our team puts into our successful marketing campaign and to protect our customers and agents who rely on our innovative methods to sell or buy a home.”

Golfi declined to speak to Fox 9, and he has yet to respond to Inman’s request for comment sent Tuesday morning.

Twin Cities patent attorney Tom Phung told Fox 9 that Lindahl has a “strong case” and could be successful in his plea, which includes a cease-and-desist and undisclosed damages to the KLRE brand.

“It’s an interesting case because it’s relatively in a new area with gestures, and what something looks like, as a trademark. He’s interested in protecting his brand,” Phung said. “Based on my experience, I think they would eventually settle out of court. But if he wins it then there’s going to be a lot more agents out there [trying] to establish their own brand.”

Read the lawsuit below:

Email Marian McPherson

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