Local Cleaning Co. Accuses Competitor Of Infringement

Zerorez claims that its Twin Cities competitor, Distinctive Cleaning, has misled customers.

A local franchise of a national carpet-cleaning chain recently sued a Twin Cities competitor, alleging trademark infringement.

The Richfield outpost of Zerorez Franchising Systems, Inc., a Utah-based residential cleaning services provider, filed its lawsuit Monday in Minnesota’s U.S. District Court against Bloomington-based Distinctive Cleaning, Inc.

Zerorez began operating in the Twin Cities in 2005, and it uses a patented cleaning technology that it touts as a “zero-residue” alternative to traditional carpet-cleaning methods, which it says leave chemical residues behind.

At the core of its suit is the alleged infringement of the Zerorez trademark. Zerorez claims that its own aggressive marketing campaigns have helped it increase market share from 3 percent in 2006 to 20 percent today—and infringement of its trademarks dilutes those efforts, according to the lawsuit. The company said it spent about $1 million on radio ads promoting its “zero-residue” technology last year.

Distinctive Cleaning officials were not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday morning. On its website, the company says it uses a “hot water extraction method” when cleaning carpets that leaves them “residue free.”

Zerorez claims in its lawsuit that, beginning in 2011, it began receiving complaints from consumers about services that they believed were performed by Zerorez, when in fact the customers had hired Distinctive Cleaning. Some disgruntled customers said they had purchased coupons for cleaning services through daily deal websites—but it was actually Distinctive Cleaning that offered the coupons, according to the lawsuit.

Furthermore, Zerorez accused Distinctive Cleaning of unlawful use of the targeted advertising service Google AdWords, saying Distinctive Cleaning used terms such as “zero rez” but linked to its own website.

The lawsuit claims that a Distinctive Cleaning representative told a customer that he worked for Zerorez. Zerorez also hired a private investigator, who called Distinctive Cleaning and was allegedly told that the company’s services are “exactly the same” as those provided by Zerorez—a claim that Zerorez refutes.

The lawsuit seeks an order barring Distinctive Cleaning from using the phrases “Zerorez” and “zero residue”—and it also seeks damages of more than $50,000, plus legal fees.