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Earthcomber files patent lawsuits against 12 real estate companies

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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.”

Patent reform

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.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Ray Schmitz

    January 20, 2012 at 2:51 am

    I am not sure we should allow patents on software at all.

  2. Frank

    January 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    patent trolling at it's finest.

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Price-predictable subscription to legal help for startups

(BUSINESS) Startups in growth mode need extra help, and legal services is not where successful companies cut corners. Check out this subscription option for your growing company.

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If you’re running your own business or are planning to start one, legal help is probably low on your list.

Most of us have access to free resources from your local Chamber of Commerce or state website, or may have a “friend” who can help you with the forms and other things.

For a lot of things, a DIY attitude won’t cost you much. You could float your own drywall for example. But when it comes to the law, you must trust an expert. Trying to cut corners on legal expenses can cost you a lot in terms of liability or lead to a few headaches, disputes, and litigations. And even if it didn’t cost money, it will cost you time.

Fortunately, you may not have to pay a lawyer directly, as there are several online solutions, including LegalZoom or LegalShield that can help you with forms, provide advice or help you get your business started. Legal advice could cost you hundreds per hour, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although online legal services are available, one thing that may be challenging for startups is that it can be difficult to budget for: cost transparency isn’t always available and it may be contingent on demand, time and resources.

Atrium is legal firm specifically designed for startups. This firm was founded by Twitch founder Justin Kan, and Silicon Valley lawyer, Augie Rakow in response to what his needs were as a startup: fast, reliable, and transparent services.

To date, Atrium boasts 890 completed startup deals; $5B raised by companies, and 10 companies started by it’s members. Atrium breaks down its services into four areas:

Atrium Counsel – which provides standard day to day legal processes, including board meetings, NDS, contract/personnel review, etc. – this is available as a subscription service or if you have unique needs, there are special projects available.
Atrium Financing – to help work with venture capital transactions and help explain the deal and it’s process, including upfront price estimates for advice with pitches.
Atrium Contracts – to help with contract review and form generations.
Atrium Blockchain – to help provide legal advice on the many regulatory issues involving blockchain issues.

Atrium’s major competitive advantage is the end of the billable hour paradigm and the focus on subscription models. This is great for a startup in growth mode because you can get a lot of value for a fixed price.

That said, Vitality CEO, Jamie Davidson said, “Just had a call with these folks. You pay a minimum of $1K a month (based on your company size) to be able to ask them questions. You then pay above-market prices for actual legal needs, like privacy policy/TOS generation ($5K), GDPR ($10+K), etc. Our current lawyer does not charge me to ask him questions, but he does charge for actual legal work.”

Others have noted Atrium’s technological advantage and expertise, so mileage could vary.

If you find that community resources aren’t available or not meeting your needs, Atrium could be the service that helps take you to the next level. If you’re considering shopping for legal services, check out Atrium’s site, get to know their team, and see if it’s the right fit for you. The bottom line is that there are a lot of places to cut corners for your growing business, but legal services are not one of them.

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Business News

Courts to decide if ‘overqualified’ is being used as a code word for ‘too old’ to hire?

(BUSINESS) Many have long held that job seekers are told they are “overqualified” when some employers mean they’re just too old and they’ll carry higher cost and leave quickly. The court system is considering this contentious topic as we speak.

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overqualified woman

According to AARP, “age discrimination in the workplace is alive and well.” But a case before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago questions whether older job applicants can sue for certain biased recruiting practices.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the case “raises a critical question about whether job applicants can pursue” a lawsuit raising the argument whether the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects external job applicants.

Therefore, the question is, does 'overqualified' truly mean an applicant doesn't have the right qualifications, or is it a code word for someone being too old to hire?Click To Tweet

The case is Kleber v. CareFusion Corp digs into this challenge. Dale Kleber applied for a position with CareFusion. The job description asked for “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience.” Kleber had decades of experience, after all he was 58. The company never even interviewed him.

They ultimately hired a 29-year-old to fill the position. CareFusion insists that Kleber’s age had nothing to do with him not being considered for the role. Kleber argues that “overqualified” is a code word for “too old.”

The case has been working its way through the courts. The first judge dismissed the claim, ruling that the statue doesn’t cover external applicants, but that decision was reversed on appeal by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit which stated it “could not imagine” that Congress intended to only protect internal applicants from age discrimination.

CareFusion was given a rehearing in front of the full court in September. Depending on their ruling, the case could go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

What does this mean for you?

This case is just one of many that attorneys are filing with various courts. There is a case in Arizona in which two firefighters, the oldest in the district, were let go due to their age. Age discrimination could affect anyone, because everyone eventually becomes eligible. The courts are conflicted over the types of protection offered by the ADEA, but it’s also difficult to prove when age discrimination has occurred.

For small business owners, it’s imperative that you look at your hiring practices. Think about your recruiting practices. Do you simply look for talent at your local college? You miss valuable talent if you’re not looking at older applicants, and people are working well into their 70s these days, no longer retiring early. Think about the connections and experience an older team member could bring to the job.

If you (or your company) refuse to care about any of those things, fine. But consider this – based on the results of this and other lawsuits, you could be opening your business to being sued if you overlook age in the recruiting and hiring process.

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Business News

Killing the 9-to-5 work day can improve workers’ output

(BUSINESS) Doing away with the tradition of working 9 to 5 in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity – let’s discuss why this isn’t an imaginary dream, but today’s reality.

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As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely.

One of these concepts that’s been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 work days. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.

Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four day work week. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.

Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour work week which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.

The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.

This was done with the goal of worker smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) help to stay efficient.

During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.

There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).

Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.

Flex hours and remote working is not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours gives us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.

Bucking the 9-to-5 cubicle life can improve the quality of work and even increase quantity of work.Click To Tweet

The 9-to-5 method is becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.

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