What’s in a username? NAR rules for the use of the word Realtor in social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr

During our social media risk management classes, we’re frequently met with some surprise when we mention that, according to NAR policy, the word Realtor cannot be used in a Web address if it appears with a geographical term or descriptive phrase.  For example, the Web addresses AwesomeRealtor.com and ArlingtonRealtor.com would be unauthorized uses of the Realtor mark.

Readers may be equally surprised to learn that the same rules apply to social media handles or usernames on sites like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. So the Twitter handles @ArlingtonRealtor or @AwesomeRealtor would be unauthorized uses of the Realtor mark.

In fact, the rules require the Realtor marks to be used with the name of a member or with the legal name of a member broker’s real estate business and apply to any use of the word Realtor, whether in print or online.

There’s a caveat, though: According to NAR trademark staff, as long as the descriptive phrase or geographical term doesn’t appear directly adjacent to the word Realtor, the use is permissible. Here are some examples to illustrate the point.

Acceptable uses:

  • RealtorJoeAlexandria.com
  • @ArlingtonJoeRealtor
  • AwesomeJoeRealtor.com

Unacceptable uses:

  • ArlingtonRealtorJoe
  • JoeRealtorArlington
  • ArlingtonVirginiaRealtor
  • AwesomeRealtorJoe

Visit NAR’s Trademark/Logo Rules section at Realtor.org (login required) for more information and examples and visit it each time you register a new username or Web domain to refresh your memory on the rules. When in doubt, contact trademark@Realtors.org.

Also note that the rules only apply to the use of the word Realtor. Therefore, you may use descriptive phrases or geographical terms in conjunction with the words Agent, Broker, and so on without violating NAR’s rules about use of the Realtor mark. None of the following would violate NAR’s Realtor mark rules:

  • @AwesomeAgentAndy
  • ArlingtonAgent.com
  • @BristowBroker
  • VirginiaHomesExpert.com
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9 Responses to What’s in a username? NAR rules for the use of the word Realtor in social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr

  1. Hank Lerner says:

    Amen. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve delivered that message to disbelieving members. Of course, many members seem to think that big chunks of the Code of Ethics don’t apply to social media either, but that’s a whole different topic.

  2. No offense to Realtors, but why couldn’t teachers be known as ” Teachers” Or musicians as “Musician.” Something bothers me about copyrighting an ordinary word, where do you stop?

  3. Scott Brunner, CEO says:

    Brooke — Because REALTOR® is not an ordinary word. It’s a trademark, like Coca-Cola® or Kleenex®. Just like every soft drink is not a Coke®, every real estate licensee is not a REALTOR®.

    The truly ordinary expression is “real estate agent.” But REALTOR® denotes a higher standard. It’s is a word coined (and trademarked) many years ago by the National Association of REALTORS® to denote a member of our organization. If a real estate licensee doesn’t belong to our association and subscribe to our Code of Ethics, he or she is indeed only an “ordinary” real estate agent, not a REALTOR®.

  4. Cindy Jones says:

    All I can say is that I changed my twitter name so I don’t have to worry about the big bad boys at the NAR sending me a nasty gram.

  5. Ah, Brooke, because “teacher” is a word, as is “musician.” But “Realtor” is a brand — something created from whole cloth by real estate pros back in the Long Long Ago. Sure, it’s been ‘genericed’ (like so many other words; just ask the folks at Xerox), but it’s still something they made up.

    Note the next time you read the word “Dumpster” in an article. Chances are it’ll be capped, because that’s a brand name. (Spoken as a former reporter, who was asked by his editor, tongue in cheek, “But was it a Dumpster brand trash bin?”

  6. My research showed it was created in 1916 to describe a real estate agent, and copyrighted in 1948, and then became a brand. I’m still thinking about adding capitalization to the first letter of “musician” and copyrighting that.

  7. The term Realtor (c) is under copywrite protection, but what about the term MLS. Is it also protected?

  8. Why would they do this? I think, to be sure and safe in using user names, don’t use Realtor.

  9. Pingback: Twitter Resources for SandwichINK Real Estate Info: Reverse Mortages, Tax Credit, Low Appraisals… | SandwichINK Real Estate Info

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