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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 (AG) 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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Business News

As soda sales slump, companies consider crazy coffee

(BUSINESS NEWS) Retail trends continue to shift as new generations demand innovation – soda sales are slumping and brands are looking to coffee as the answer.

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coffee

Since the 1950s, beverage companies have been concerned with the shift of market share from soda to coffee in terms of breakfast and afternoon drink staples. Well now, that fortune has been reversed. According to analysis by the Washington Post, coffee may once again trump the caffeinated drink market, leaving soda manufacturers to question what may come next, while planning a strategy to enter the playing field.

The slump in soda sales are causing some beverage manufacturers and parent companies looking to merge or acquire others in order to hook the consumer throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Considering that in late 2017, Coca-Cola acquired hipster sparkling water favorite Topo Chico, other companies are falling in line to make sure that their reach goes beyond the high fructose corn syrup.

The secretive JAB Holdings, the German parent company of Panera Bread, Keurig, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, acquired Dr Pepper and Snapple, making this 40+ drink brand company a bigger player than ever in the search for “the new soda.”

So what is going to be the “new soda”? One answer companies may have is the coffee beverages that are certainly similar to their current soda line-up. Outside of Pepsi and Coca Cola, bottling ready-made java drinks on behalf of Starbucks and Pepsi, some brands are really leaning into “soda, but not” for their coffee beverages.

The 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends Report predicted four of the big trendy brands that soda is up against: regular cold brew, sparkling cold brew, nitro joe on draft, and ready-to-drink coffee products. Stumptown Roasters, underneath the Dr Pepper and Keurig mega brand umbrella, has been producing sparkling cold brew since early 2017, which seems unlikely to change in light of these market trends.

The morning mud appears to be an American drink pastime that isn’t going away, with the millennial and Gen Z market wanting exciting coffee innovations to keep their interest and cash loyalty. Soda companies, in this day and age, are struggling to balance their brand portfolio to make sure that dollar keeps flowing, just like their beverages.

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Business News

Failed new years resolutions? Try workplace wellness programs

(WORKPLACE) There are simple ways to better your organization through workplace wellness initiatives which is way cooler than it sounds, I swear…

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workplace wellness

It’s February and most of us have already failed to keep our “don’t eat Taco Bell” new year resolutions. We’re not fat jerks, it’s just that Taco Bell has these new french fries and we have no self control.

Even though our diet resolutions have failed, we can all improve our own wellness. And we can maximize our efforts by focusing on workplace wellness, because I just had another batch of Taco Bell fries (that resolution is dead), and because we spend more time with coworkers than anyone else.

Why not mix it with workplace wellness and get some of your coworkers on board to make some health and wellness improvements (then maybe Betty in accounting will quit showing up with her ridiculously delicious chocolate chip cookies)? Betty…

However, what most people may not be focusing on are health concerns outside of eating healthier and staying active.

I stumbled upon TotalWellness Health while browsing for inspiration on how to better myself in the new year. According to their website, “TotalWellness is a national wellness services provider that provides tools and services to deliver better wellness programs.”

They partner with organizations specifically to better their workplaces and help their employees to be healthier. TotalWellness helps organizations to lower healthcare costs, prevent diseases, and create corporate wellness solutions to foster a safer and more productive work environment.

The company also provides: health risk assessment and reporting, corporate health fairs, various health screenings, on-site flu shot clinics, health education, and a wellness portal. All of this is designed to help organizations provide their employees with a well-rounded blanket of health services.

Having something like this, even if somehow done in-house, can also help improve the overall vibe of the workplace. Creating wellness events and activities can help bring employees together, inspire creativity, and, in turn, this will translate to productivity.

Also consider creating more of a collaborative community presence as a part of your workplace wellness.

This can be done through group volunteering events or fundraisers, anything that helps employees to bond and collaborate while helping others.

You can combine all of this together by researching charity events with a health component. For example, Run Ranger Run will be taking place during the entire month of February, and challenges groups of up to ten people to walk, bike, run, etc. a total of 565 miles (per group). This can be done remotely and logged into a portal, so it’s perfect for teams that may work remote.

The bottom line: make yourself more aware of different offerings and opportunities this year, because it can have a snowball effect that betters your workplace as a whole and helps you eat less fries.

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Business News

Hawaiian missile strike fallout: The importance of clarity in crisis communication

(BUSINESS) Companies can learn quite a bit from the recent Hawaiian missile clusterflip, particularly about timeliness and clarity in crisis communications.

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hawaiian missile crisis

The federal investigation into the Hawaii civil defense snafu earlier this month revealed that there were serious errors in how the training exercise was conducted between two shifts and in the ongoing performance concerns of the employee directly responsible for sending out the alert.

For 38 minutes, citizens and visitors in the Hawaiian Islands cowered in fear, alerted to take immediate shelter by messages that were received on cellphones and broadcast on TV stations across the state. While officials attempted to calm the populace by taking to Twitter immediately to quell the concerns, many people were not—understandably—taking to tweeting what may have been their last thoughts, and thus were not informed until a follow up message was broadcast to cellphones nearly 40 minutes later.

The Federal Communications Commission, which conducted the federal portion of the investigation into the incident, put partial blame on a lack of clarity about the drill between the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency supervisors of the evening and the morning shifts and a subsequent lack of supervision.

The night-shift supervisor wanted to test the preparedness of the morning-shift workers with an unannounced drill, according to the FCC report. While the day-shift supervisor was allegedly aware that the drill was to take place, he thought that it was to test the night-shift personnel, not the morning crew. As such, he was not prepared to oversee the drill.

The test, which followed normal protocols, involved the night-shift supervisor playing a prerecorded message to emergency personnel warning them that a threat was imminent. The recording, which was simulating real notification from the U.S. Pacific Command, did include the words “Exercise, exercise, exercise,” according to the FCC report, but it also stated “This is not a drill” – which is what workers would expect to hear in a real warning for an active missile alert.

Adding to the confusion was that the worker who was responsible for transmitting the alert as an active emergency heard the language that reflected that it was not a drill, but did not hear the “exercise” language in the tape playback. The employee, believing that it was an actual alert, rather than a drill, responded affirmatively to a prompt asking “Are you sure that you want to send this Alert?”, said the FCC. He was, according to both the FCC and the state investigation into the incident, the only employee to believe that it was an actual alert, and the only worker not to hear the “exercise” portion of the drill.

Adding to the confusion was the revelation by Hawaii state officials on Tuesday that the employee in question had a troubled work history stretching back over the past decade.

The state investigation revealed that the employee had been counseled and corrected for poor performance over the previous 10 years, including that, on at least two occasions, the employee also “confused real life events and drills.” While other members of the employee’s team were reportedly uncomfortable with him and his work for some time, this mistake proved to be the final action of his career with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, as he was terminated last week, pending appeal.

Vern T. Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, resigned Tuesday morning as the investigation results were released and “has taken full responsibility” for the incident, according to Major General Joe Logan, the state adjutant general, who oversees the agency.

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