More Real Estate Organizations Sued over Search Patents

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An old lawsuit over real estate search patents has resurfaced again.

Florida inventor Mark Tornetta and Real Estate Alliance LTD (REAL), who owns Tornetta’s patents (Nos. 4,480,576 and 5,032,989), have announced today they have moved in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to sue the industry’s largest trade association and several national brokerages, home builders and online real estate players.

Named in the suit were:

  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR), with approximately 1.3 million real estate broker and agent members nationwide;
  • Nationwide real estate brokerage firms, including RE/MAX and Keller Williams Realty;
  • Home builders, such as Pulte Homes and Ryland Group;
  • The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB);
  • Enterprise computer software providers to the real estate industry, including Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions, First American Corporation, and others;
  • MOVE, Inc., the company that operates flagship real estate websites such as Realtor.com, MOVE.com, HomeBuilder.com, RentNet.com, and SeniorHousingNet.com; and
  • More than 25 other defendants representing nationwide classes of claimed infringers:  real estate brokers, agents, multiple listing services, new home builders, and rental property owners/managers.

The patents, which were applied for in 1986, were granted by the U.S. Government in 1989 and 1991 and cover online search methods. From their press release:

[The patents] cover user-friendly mapping methods “for locating available real estate properties for sale, lease or rental using a database of available properties at a central location and remote stations which use a graphic interface.”  The patents also cover certain online usage involving a “drilldown” feature, under which specific areas can be displayed in greater detail.

The suit is seeking compensatory as well as 3x damages.

This time around, REAL has retained the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP to lead the litigation. Proskauer has a well known track record of successfully litigating cases around intellectual property – most recently leading class action efforts against YouTube and Google (YouTubeClassAction.com).

Back story. In 1998, the same group sued Microsoft over their HomeAdvisor site and in 2005 they sued a Pennsylvania real estate agent over their listings search method.