The Lones Group Trademark Infringement Suit and Brand Suicide, and Why understanding Internet Culture Matters

By Drew Meyers on February 26, 2011

Obligatory Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney, in any way, shape or form.  I consider Daniel Rothamel and his family (also parties to the lawsuit I’m about to discuss) personal friends. And until today, I had never heard of The Lones Group (although I have been around the Seattle real estate scene for about 6 years). Furthermore, I have no idea if they are good at what they do – that’s not the point. Finally, what follows is simply my personal opinion.

Before l I start (my rant), a brief recap of the news that hit today — The Lones Group Inc filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Daniel Rothamel and his family brokerage, Strong Team Realtors, for infringing on their “Zebra Report” and “Zebra Blog”. Supposedly, Lones Group and Strong Team Realtors are in direct competition (even though they are 3,000 miles away) and the fact that Daniel has been known as the Real Estate Zebra for the last 5 years is “unfairly diverting business” from Lones Group. They are asking for $75,000 in damages. Here is the Inman News article: ‘Real Estate Zebra’ hit with trademark suit.

In my eyes, The Lones Group just destroyed their reputation with a single strike of their pen and a court filing on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I think it’s safe to say the Lones Group had no clue what deep public crap they’d get themselves into by filing this lawsuit against a blogger as well known and respected as Daniel Rothamel (the real Real Estate Zebra), who has hundreds and hundreds of friends (all of whom have blogs and Twitter accounts) all across the country. Doing what they just did is PURE brand suicide in today’s social media world. A single quote, link, or picture can reach millions of eyeballs within minutes. Like it or not, that is the way our intertwined world operates. Companies can operate within that framework, or cease to exist. And Lones Group is now suffering the consequences. You would think an Internet Marketing Company would know this?

FEAR of competition is completely unhealthy compared to competition itself. Here’s an idea for the Lones Group. Instead of filing a trademark lawsuit because you are scared, you should have done things SUCH AS the following:

  • Put “Zebra” in your title tag of your blog
  • Connected with a few real estate bloggers over the past 5 years in the social media space
  • Put the word “Zebra” in the header of your blog
  • Place your blog on your own domain name instead of using

The Lones Group  lost the online fight for the Zebra brand name (if there ever was one) in the ONLINE real estate space. The fact that someone would rather file a lawsuit rather than figure out how to settle their matter privately is a disgrace. But, hey, maybe that’s just me. To win in life and business, you’ve got to show up. And if you lose? Learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t file a stupid lawsuit; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. As I’d said before, business and life comes down to execution. Daniel succeeded with branding himself. The Lones Group didn’t.

Competition should be motivation for you to get better. Not motivation for taking legal action.

Last, but not least, if you want to help Daniel defend himself, you can donate to his defense fund at All extra proceeds will go to charity.