Count Trulia Inc. among the ranks of real estate portal operators who have settled claims that they infringed on two patents covering a process that enables consumers to search for items of interest in specific geographic locations.
Trulia says it’s agreed to pay up to $900,000 to Alexandria, Va.-based CIVIX-DDI LLC to settle claims that it infringed on U.S. patents 6,385,622 and 6,415,291, which cover techniques for remotely accessing a selected group of items of interest from a database.
CIVIX sued Trulia in July, but dropped the case two months later. In filing for an initial public offering Friday, Trulia revealed that it entered into a licensing agreement with CIVIX in September.
The licensing agreement calls for Trulia to pay a minimum of $550,000 to CIVIX, plus $350,000 if the company is able to complete an initial public offering. So far, Trulia has paid CIVIX $450,000, the company said in its S-1 registration statement for a planned IPO.
CIVIX has sued more than a dozen operators of websites that offer location-based search capabilities, and settled with others without filing suit. In one recent lawsuit, CIVIX claimed it’s entered into 26 licensing agreements for its patents, generating more than $42 million in royalties.
In its most recent annual report to investors, Zillow Inc. revealed that although it had not been sued by CIVIX, it had agreed to pay $850,000 to release the company from any claims that it infringed on the CIVIX patents.
Last year, the National Association of Realtors took the lead in negotiating a blanket licensing agreement for multiple listing services and Realtor associations around the country that paid CIVIX $7.5 million. NAR agreed to broker the deal after two of the nation’s largest MLSs – Chicago-based Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED) and Rockville, Md.-based Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS) — settled lawsuits filed by CIVIX in 2010.
In December 2009, Realtor.com operator Move Inc. paid a total of $4.86 million to settle a 2005 claim brought by CIVIX against Move and NAR, plus another patent infringement case brought by Tren Technologies Holdings LLC (the cost of each settlement was not broken out in a Move regulatory filing).
Not every portal operator that’s been sued by CIVIX has chosen to settle.
Last year, the U.S. District Court for the Northern Disctrict of Illinois ruled that Hotels.com — a co-defendant in the 2005 case against Move and NAR — had not infringed on the CIVIX patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld that decision in May.
Hotels.com continues to pursue counterclaims against CIVIX, and CIVIX has filed a motion to re-litigate its patent infringement claim. The case is currently scheduled for trial in January.
Another lawsuit CIVIX filed in January against commercial lisitng portal operator LoopNet Inc. currently has a February 2013 trial date. Attorneys for LoopNet deny the company infringed on the CIVIX patents, and say CIVIX is barred from pursuing claims against LoopNet because CIVIX had previously granted a license to Microsoft Corp., which provides software that powers loopnet.com and cityfeet.com.
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