A dozen companies sued
Earthcomber is a patented technology that aides mobile device users in locating special interests nearby, allowing users to share their current location with friends by manual entry of ZIP code or current intersection rather than through GPS or triangulation, according to how they describe themselves on CrunchBase.com, although their website describes Earthcomber as a GPS app.
Although several companies say they have not yet been served with any legal papers, Earthcomber filed ten lawsuits against a dozen real estate companies for allegedly infringing their 2006 patent on matching mobile users with their “stated preferences.” The companies sued are parent real estate companies, many of whom operate dozens of companies within their network, so this lawsuit is much more than just twelve companies overall.
Court documents filed read:
“These inventions resulted in the issuance of multiple patents, including United States Patent No. 7,071,842, entitled “System and Method for Locating and Notifying a User of a Person, Place or Thing Having Attributes Matching the User’s Stated Preferences,” (“the ‘842 Patent”) and United States Patent No. 7,589,628, entitled “System and Method for Providing Location-Based Information to Mobile Consumers,” (“the ‘628 Patent”). Earthcomber offers applications for mobile devices that are embodiments of the inventions claimed by the ‘842 and ‘628 Patents and these applications have won acclaim in the industry.”
*Emphasis by AGBeat, not court documents.
In 2008, Earthcomber sued mobile social network Loopt and the corporate parent of technology blog TechCrunch which was settled in 2009 for which the terms have not been publicly disclosed. Earthcomber Founder and President, Jim Brady told PaidContent.com that he is not a patent troll and that Earthcomber originally envisioned combining Palm and Bluetooth technology into one device and the patent was his only protection. He told PaidContent, “Big money bowls over small app makers like us.”
Although the new laws only apply to new patents, we reported last fall that President Obama has signed into law major patent reforms in the “America Invests Act.” According to the National Association of Realtors, the Act is divided into three parts, “First, it aims to keep the U.S. patent system attractive to global companies by aligning its processes with other countries’ processes. Second, it tries to align funding for the U.S. Patent Office with its needs by modifying its fee system. And third, it aims to raise the bar on the quality of the patents so only the most appropriate patent infringement lawsuits are filed.”
The third part of the act seeks to stunt patent trolling and promotes innovation as it disallows generic patents such as “real estate search” which is so broad it leaves vulnerable any company or person creating, designing or using these technologies.
The patent system in America has been desperately in need of an overhaul for decades, and although the implications of these reforms will not be seen or felt for some time, it is a much needed reform that could open the gates for innovators who have sat on the sidelines in fear.
All 12 companies named:
Earthcomber says they are defending their patent from the following companies who may or may not have been served with court papers yet (click any name to view the court documentation, featured in alphabetical order):
- Dominion Enterprises – parent company of Advanced Access, Agent Advantage, eNeighborhoods, Homes.com, HomeSolutions, New Homes and Living, Number1 Expert, After 55 Moving & Resource Guide, Apartments For Rent, Apartamentos Para Rentar, CorporateHousing.com, resite online, 123movers.com, careersingear.com, EmploymentGuide.com, Health Career Web, jobalot, wiseworker.com, TraderOnline.com, AeroTrader, Boats.com, BoatTrader.com, CommercialTruckTrader.com, CycleTrader.com, EquipmentTrader.com, getAuto.com, National RV Trader, RVtraderonline.com, Passage Maker, Pay Load, Work Truck Trader, Yachtworld.com, Towing & Recovery Footnotes, Waneck’s Classic Cycle, Dominion Dealer Solutions, Data Cube, DataOne Software, Cross-Sell, Interactive Financial Marketing Group, MailMark, PowerSportsNetwork, SelectQu, Target Marketing, TrafficLogPro, VehicleWebServices, XIGroup, Ziios, HotelCoupons.com, Travel Coupon Guide, Florida Travel Saver, Parenthood.com, Dominion Distribution, and InterCo Print.
- LoopNet – commercial real estate search engine.
- Move, Inc. – whose network consists of Move.com, Realtor.com, Top Producer, Moving.com, and HomeInsight.com, Senior Housing Net, ListHub, Builders Digital Experience (BDX), FeaturedWebsite.com, Newhomesource.com, and HomeInsight.com.
- MyNewPlace.com – national apartment search website, dba MF Tech Solutions, Inc.
- National Association of Realtors – one of the nation’s largest trade organizations, named in the same suit as Move, Inc. who they share an operating agreement with.
- Network Communications, Inc. – real estate publishers that print Apartment Finder, The Real Estate Book, Unique Homes, Mature Living Choices, New Home Finder, New Homes & Ideas, New Homes Journal, Home Improvement Dallas, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, Mountain Living, At Home in Arkansas, Chicago Home Improvement, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, Kansas City Homes & Gardens, New England Home, Raleigh/Triangle Home Improvement, St. Louis Homes & Lifestyles, and Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, along with their corresponding websites.
- Primedia – parent company of print magazines Apartment Guide and New Home Guide, also parent to Rentals.com, ApartmentGuide.com, NewHomeGuide.com and their distributor, DistribuTech.
- RealPage, Inc. – named in the same suit as MyNewPlace.com, RealPage is a Software as a service provider for property managers with familiar product lines like Rent Roll (now YieldStar), ComplianceDepot, Propertyware and several others.
- Redfin – national real estate brokerage.
- Trulia – real estate search media company (acquired Movity in 2010).
- Zillow – real estate search media company (acquired Postlets and Diverse Solutions in 2011).
- ZipRealty – national real estate brokerage.