Three Cendant corporation subsidiaries have sued LendingTree.com.
Century 21 Real Estate Corporation, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation, and ERA Franchise Systems, Inc. filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey earlier this month.
LendingTree.com, an online mortgage broker service, stands accused by the Cendant trio of violating several sections of the Trademark Act of 1946. Also, the lawsuit alleges violations of New Jersey's Fair Trade Act, false advertising law and common law.
At issue is LendingTree's referral system, Lending Tree Realty Services. According to the lawsuit, the referral service recommends real estate brokers to potential customers if the broker has agreed to split up to 35 percent of commissions with the website.
LendingTree's site states that the broker referral system will "give you access to a national network of brokers representing the country's leading real estate companies, including..." Underneath, the site lists all three plaintiffs in the suit, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and ERA, as well as several other companies.
The Cendant subsidiaries contend that LendingTree "provides the illusion that LendingTree participates in a network of real estate companies that includes Century 21, Coldwell Banker, and ERA." The suit also alleges misuse of the three companies' trademarked symbols.
According to RealtyTimes.com, a hearing is scheduled for June 24.
A spokesman for Cendant said that the company does not comment on pending litigation and that the suit was filed by the three subsidiaries, not Cendant as a whole.
LendingTree vice president of corporate communications Deborah Roth responded to the lawsuit in a written statement, calling the use of the real estate broker names and trademarks as "a fair, descriptive and non-infringing use of those names under trademark laws..."
She said LendingTree "categorically denies improper use" of the brokers' trademarks and called the claim of infringement "wholly without merit."
We are confident, she said, "that when the dust settles, we will prevail and be vindicated."