Have you ever heard of eMove, the online estate agent that offers to sell your property for a low fixed fee, and that claims to be “the UK’s leading online estate agent”? You may think you have, but it’s more likely you’re thinking of eMoov – which actually is one of the biggest online estate agents in the UK, with millions of pounds of backing from ex-Dragon’s Den investor James Caan among others.
eMove (warning – this might get confusing) which also calls itself eMove UK is actually a trading name of a company called Online Property Sales Ltd. and uses the website address emoveuk.com. Call their hotline and you will hear (at the time of writing) an automated voice announce, “welcome to eMove, the UK’s leading online estate agent”.
But the reality is that eMove has around a tenth of the properties for sale (around 180) that eMoov does (around 1900) – check out their respective Rightmove listings:
Unsurprisingly eMoov is not impressed with the marketing activities of its junior rival and it looks like they are starting to get serious about it.
Recently it was reported that the Advertising Standards Authority had received a complaint by eMoov about eMove’s claim of “over 10,000 homes sold”; “£42,750,000 saved in fees” and “20 days on average to sell”, suggesting those claims could not be backed up.
Now this week, eMoov has just upped the ante by securing an EU-wide trademark for the term EMOVE, covering estate agency services over the internet and also related business areas like mortgages and insurance.
SellingUp contacted eMove UK for their reaction to having the trademark EMOVE owned by a major competitor.
A spokesperson – who asked not to be named – admitted she was unaware that eMoov had just secured the mark and complained: “I didn’t know about this. Normally the Intellectual Property Office write to you to ask if you have any objection and they haven’t in this case.”
She went on to claim that lawyers for eMoov had over the past few years written to eMove “8 or 10 times” in an attempt to stop them using the name, citing what she called “bully boy tactics”.
The eMove spokesperson added that her firm has its own “very high powered IP (intellectual property) lawyer in London” – but refused to name the firm – and added they always reply to any threats robustly. The dispute, she revealed, “may well end up in court” but she believes James Caan’s eMoov would not have a strong enough case to win, which is why, she claims, they have so far not taken it to that level.
It remains to be seen if the registering of the EMOVE trademark has now shifted the balance in favour of the market leading firm.
At the time of writing, eMoov’s chief executive Russell Quirk told SellingUp he was not able to discuss the matter, and the company’s IP lawyers Stobbs refused to comment, other than to confirm they had registered the mark on behalf of eMoov.
We asked IP expert Leighton Cassidy, a partner at multinational law firm Fieldfisher for his independent view on eMoov registering the trademark, and he told SellingUp that the case has the potential to end up in litigation.
Mr Cassidy said: “A cynic might say that this looks like an attempt by eMoov to secure registered trade mark protection for a trade mark that it is very similar to one of their competitor’s trade marks, and it seems likely that this could be heading towards a dispute.
“eMoov don’t appear to use the mark EMOVE and under EU law there is no requirement to use the mark for at least 5 years following registration. If aggrieved, eMove might be considering action before the courts or administrative proceedings to cancel eMoov’s registration.”
From a property seller’s point of view, it is clearly important to remember there is a wide choice of online estate agents on the market, including eMoov and indeed eMove UK – but it is vital that vendors check they are actually appointing the company that they intended to.