• In December, the parent company of Apartments.com filed a lawsuit against Apartment Hunters Inc., alleging that it used an automated process to steal a high volume of copyrighted photographs and listing data.
  • Apartment Hunters Inc., which owns ApartmentHunterz.com, has responded by denying all claims and arguing that its local rental listing websites are not direct competition.
  • The filing, which serves as a response rather than a motion to dismiss, gives little insight about how the company intends to approach the lawsuit.

Apartment Hunters Inc. has responded to a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Apartments.com, denying that its conduct was “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent.”

In December, CoStar Realty Information, the parent company of Apartments.com, filed its suit in California federal court, alleging that Apartment Hunters used an automated copying or “scraping” process to steal a high volume of copyrighted photographs and other information from its national, online apartment listings.

CoStar further alleged that Apartment Hunters and the company’s owners, Kevin Shayan and Steven Shayan, knew their actions were illegal and took steps to hide the theft by cropping or altering the photographs to remove the CoStar logo.

On Feb. 8, Apartment Hunters filed a response to CoStar’s complaint and denied all of the company’s allegations. Apartment Hunters’ filing is a response to CoStar’s complaint, not a motion to dismiss, and it gives little insight about how it intends to approach the lawsuit.

However, the Dana Point, California-based company did allege that Apartments.com failed to properly mark their copyrighted material, and its alleged conduct “does not earn revenue from free riding.”

Apartment Hunters also argued that the companies are not direct competitors. Apartments.com’s website has listings across the country, while Apartment Hunters operates several websites that list homes and apartments for rent only in California.

“Plaintiffs’ claims for relief are barred (in whole or in part) because defendants’ alleged conduct has not substantially harmed plaintiffs,” Apartment Hunters stated in its response. “The conduct of defendants with respect to plaintiffs, if any, was justified, privileged and/or effected in good faith, without malice, spite, or conscious, reckless or negligent disregard for the rights of plaintiffs, if any, and without improper purpose or ill will of any kind.”

A scheduling conference for the case has been set for April 1. Apartment Hunters is represented by Los Angeles-based law firm Fox Rothschild. Apartments.com’s team of attorneys include Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, also a Los Angeles law firm, and Williams & Connolly, a firm in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit asserts claims for direct copyright infringement, misappropriation and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law against Apartment Hunters and its owners, as well as contributory copyright infringement against the Shayans.

The complaint does not seek a specified amount of damages, but CoStar claims it is entitled to “millions of dollars in damages and a permanent injunction to prevent further irreparable harm.”

Apartment Hunters’ websites include ApartmentHunterz.com, 4rentinla.com, 4rentinnewyork.com, wetakesection8.com, ifindrentals.com, featuredrentals.com, leaseinsandiego.com, rentinsanfrancisco.com, w6.lt, listmyrentals.com and ineed2move.com.

Email Amy Swinderman.

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