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Century 21 Real Estate Corp. v. LendingTree, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
425 F.3d 211 (2005)


Facts

Century 21, Coldwell Banker, and ERA (CCE) (plaintiffs) were real estate companies with thousands of franchisees. LendingTree, Inc. (LendingTree) (defendant) was an internet business that, among other things, referred consumers to local real estate brokers in its network. Approximately 250 CCE franchisees participated in LendingTree’s broker-referral network, but there was no affiliation between the CCE parent companies and LendingTree. In print materials, LendingTree said its referral network included “Coldwell Banker, Century 21 … and ERA.” Additionally, LendingTree’s website had a picture of a blue-and-white Coldwell Banker “For Sale” sign and used the plaintiffs’ logos and marks. The plaintiffs demanded that LendingTree stop using their marks, but LendingTree only stopped using the marks in some places. CCE sued LendingTree, seeking a preliminary injunction to stop LendingTree from using CCE’s marks. LendingTree then made more changes, including changing the colors of the “For Sale” sign on its website and adding a disclaimer that LendingTree was not affiliated with any of the participants in the broker-referral network. CCE did not present any evidence of actual consumer confusion to the court. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against LendingTree, finding that LendingTree’s use of the plaintiffs’ names was likely to confuse consumers and that LendingTree was not protected by the nominative-fair-use defense. LendingTree appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rendell, J.)

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