A company that holds several patents on location-based Internet search techniques has sued listings portal Trulia, claiming the company infringed on two of them.
A spokesman for Trulia said the company would have no comment on the lawsuit, filed on July 28 by Alexandria, Va.-based CIVIX-DDI LLC in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Since it was founded in 1998, CIVIX has sued a number of companies that operate websites it claims infringe on its patents, including two of the nation’s largest multiple listing services. Both MLSs settled with CIVIX out of court.
The National Association of Realtors in May announced it had reached an agreement with CIVIX that would provide blanket protection from lawsuits for all MLSs and Realtor associations if NAR can raise $7.5 million in licensing fees by Aug. 16.
So far, NAR has met two required milestones spelled out in the agreement, raising $2.5 million by June 16 and $5 million by July 17. NAR says all Realtor associations, MLSs and Commercial Information Exchanges that made licensing payments in the first two rounds will receive immunity from claims by CIVIX.
If the $7.5 million threshold is reached, all associations and MLSs nationwide will receive blanket immunity from claims by CIVIX, regardless of whether they paid a licensing fee.
The agreement negotiated by NAR does not cover third-party listing publishers like Trulia and Zillow.
In its compaint against Trulia, CIVIX claims the company is infringing on U.S. patents 6,385,622 and 6,415,291. The patents were issued in 2002, and in May the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office turned down requests for re-examination of both patents.
Attorneys for CIVIX said the company has granted "hundreds of licenses" under the two patents, "resulting in more than $40 million in royalties."
License holders include "providers of location-based real estate searching systems and services of the type provided by Trulia through its Trulia.com website," attorneys for CIVIX said.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction and award of damages "sufficient to fully and adequately compensate CIVIX" for the alleged infringement.
According to the complaint, CIVIX is a Colorado limited liability company, and its principal place of business is 1220 Prince St., Alexandria, Va.
Trulia.com identifies 1220 Prince St. as a three-bedroom, single-family home in Alexandria’s Old Town neighborhood, constructed in 1880.
According to Justia, a database of federal district court filings, over the years CIVIX has sued Microsoft, Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, and the National Association of Realtors.
CIVIX filed separate lawsuits last year against Chicago-based Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED) and Rockville, Md.-based Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS). Both lawsuits claimed the MLSs infringed on the same two patents cited in the complaint against Trulia.
MRIS initially fought the complaint CIVIX filed against the MLS on Aug. 30, 2010, responding two months later by denying all allegations and filling a counterclaim against CIVIX.
In its counterclaim, MRIS alleged that CIVIX "intended to deceive or mislead" the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about previous litigation over the two patents in question and during the re-examination process.
MRED, which was sued on Aug. 4, 2010, made similar arguments in a counterclaim filed against CIVIX two weeks later. Both MLSs ended up settling out of court — CIVIX agreed to dismiss its case against MRIS in March 2011 and dropped its suit against MRED three months later.
When NAR announced at the association’s midyear meeting in May that it had negotiated a settlement with CIVIX that amounts to about $9.06 per MLS subscriber, MRIS President and CEO David Charron lauded it as "a pretty good deal."
Charron said MRIS believed the CIVIX patents "should never have been awarded, but in fact (they were), so we chose to settle."