The Real Deal Los Angeles

Trouble in paradise: Brokers in court over “Malibu Estates” name

Adam Weintraub says Marcus Beck and Sotheby's illegally marketed his firm's name
By Dennis Lynch |
Research by Laura Hanrahan
July 26, 2018 03:00PM

Sotheby’s International Realty agent Marcus Beck and the Malibu beachfront (Credit: tensaibuta via Flickr)

A Malibu broker says a competing agent at Sotheby’s International Realty has purloined his company’s name to drum up business.

Adam Weintraub filed a lawsuit accusing Sotheby’s and agent Marcus Beck of illegally marketing his company’s name, Malibu Estates, without his permission.

In the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Weintraub said he has operated the brokerage under the Malibu Estates name for about 15 years. In 2011, the residential broker applied for and was given permission from the California Bureau of Real Estate to use the name. The suit alleges “trade name” not “trademark” infringement.

Two years later, Sotheby’s and Beck began using the name, according to the suit filed earlier this month.

Beck allegedly used the Malibu Estates name to drive traffic to his own website. Weintraub, who is based in Tarzana, further claims that Beck and Sotheby’s did not comply with a state Bureau of Real Estate order to stop using the name.

The suit claims that Beck willfully uses the Malibu Estates name to benefit from Weintraub’s reputation and business.

Weintraub has operated www.malibuestates.net since 2011, while Beck took www.malibuestates.com sometime after 2013. The suit says that Beck used the name in marketing before being ordered to stop in 2016. He points to Beck’s advertisements as proof, including one that reads: “Malibu Estates is your one stop solution for Malibu Real Estate services.”

Beck has continued to use the business name in marketing materials following the order to stop doing so, Weintraub claimed in the suit.

Though Beck eventually changed the name of his website to www.marcusbeck.com, Weintraub says that as of March, web searches of “Marcus Beck” brought up a link to the site that included “Malibu Estates” in its description. A Google search on Wednesday of “Marcus Beck” did not bring up results that included “Malibu Estates.”

Weintraub said in the suit that the confusion has prompted clients to ask him if he works for Beck, and claims that his use of the name is “likely to deceive consumers.” He is seeking unspecified monetary damages, along with a court order to stop Beck from using the name.

Weintraub’s attorneys could not be reached for comment. Beck declined to comment for the story, as did Sotheby’s.