Real estate intellectual property protection group REDPLAN has a request for brokerages, associations, MLSs, tech companies and other players in the industry: Dig through your archives and help REDPLAN stock up firepower to fight “patent trolls” and copyright infringers.
In May, REDPLAN’s board of directors approved the creation of a “prior art” library and a national forms registry.
Now the trade group wants those attending the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) conference in Kansas City next week to help furnish both.
Others in the industry are also encouraged to submit materials by getting in touch with Clareity Chief Technologist Matt Cohen, who was named the prior art library’s curator and archivist last month.
‘A not-so-secret weapon’
“Prior art,” whether physical or digital, can show inventions are not new and thereby prove that a patent should never have been granted. Last year, prior art helped invalidate patents held by CoreLogic and Zillow.
Evidence from prior art can also help fight claims from “patent trolls” or “nonpracticing entities” — companies that own patents but don’t actually provide goods or services. (CIVIX was an NPE.)
Nonpracticing entities will often offer to license their patent to firms that do provide goods or services in order to collect money from them in exchange for promising not to sue them. Often, the firms pay up, calculating that the licensing fees will be lower than their litigation costs.
Everyday Realtors are getting these letters for using common technology, such as scanner-copier machines or online property search, according to the National Association of Realtors.
“Knowledge of this Library can serve as a not-so-secret weapon to act as a deterrent to frivolous patent trolling,” said Ira Luntz of Real Estate Digital, co-chair of REDPLAN’s prior art library committee in a statement.
Prior art would include things such as newspaper articles, software manuals, contracts, proposals, printouts, pieces of hardware, brochures, marketing materials and other items from the “old” days, REDPLAN said.
REDPLAN wants non-confidential materials only, Cohen told Inman.
‘The lifeblood of the industry’
The national forms registry is currently in its design phase. It aims to help the real estate information industry protect and properly license “another part of the lifeblood of the industry” — its forms, the trade group said.
The kinds of forms that will go into the registry include transaction forms created by state associations, brokerage office forms, listing agreements, buy-sell agreements, content license agreements, and IDX (Internet data exchange) questionnaires, among others — “all the forms that an association, MLS or company would create, update and use,” REDPLAN executive administrator Darity Wesley told Inman in an email.
The registry will support copyright ownership claims of form creators — brokerages, MLSs, associations, tech firms or information companies — and give them the ability to list entities that have legally licensed their form libraries, REDPLAN said. Eventually, the registry will be able to track licenses of a particular member’s forms library.
The registry would be used to help REDPLAN members pursue copyright or trademark infringement claims or breach of contract claims.
“REDPLAN’s forms initiative provides the entire real estate industry with an ability to strategically protect the intellectual property our business success is dependent upon,” said Chris Galler, CEO of the Minnesota Association of Realtors, in a statement. Galler is also a REDPLAN director.
REDPLAN’s prior art library and national forms registry are member benefits. This means that anyone can submit materials to both, but only REDPLAN members will be able to access them and use them to protect their intellectual property.
“However, the board of directors will, at their discretion, provide access by request on a case-by-case basis,” Wesley said.
“We, needless to say, are hoping these initiatives and all that REDPLAN stands for will encourage more associations, multiple listing services and real estate information companies to join the REDPLAN family.”
Those interested in submitting materials to the prior art library and the forms registry can bring them to REDPLAN’s table at the CMLS conference or get in touch with Cohen. He can be reached at email@example.com or 612-331-1788.