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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

Former Budweiser exec says marijuana is the new craft beer

(BUSINESS NEWS) In light of a growing consumer demand and more states decriminalizing and legalizing, “Big Booze” casts sights on burgeoning marijuana market.

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Imagine all the Instagram photos. Imagine all those new hashtags (no pun intended).

A carefully placed pre-rolled joint next to a latte with a heart drawn in the foam, an iridescent glass pipe freshly filled held out at arm’s length with a mountain and a sunset at the horizon, and different strains or arrays of edibles displayed next to their branded packaging.

Weed: “It’s the new craft beer,” according to former marketing exec for Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser beer, Chris Burggraeve.

Since leaving his position as Chief Marketing Officer, Burggraeve has begun investing in the marijuana industry, recently joining the advisory board of greenRush Group, the San Francisco-based startup that aims to be the “Amazon of weed” as the largest technology platform in the cannabis industry.

In addition to greenRush, Burggraeve also co-founded Toast, a company that makes luxury pre-rolled joints.

Research firm Cowen and Company released their findings last year that in legalized states such as Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, people have begun laying off the sauce as beer sales took a noticeable dip below the national average. According to a Gallup poll released last month, 64 percent of the U.S. population now wants to lift the federal ban on marijuana.

It was only a matter of time before those in the alcohol industry began to take notice. Just last month, Constellation Brands, the beer distributor who owns Corona and Svedka vodka, bought a 9.9 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corporation, an acquisition in anticipation of nationwide legalization of marijuana in the U.S.

Big companies like Amazon, however, have shied away from taking such leaps in the industry due to the current federal ban.

“This is one of the fastest-growing categories globally,” Burggraeve told Bloomberg. “When consumers want something, you ignore it at your peril,” also noting that in order for booze companies to stay relevant in some fashion, they will have to conform to cannabis, whether they want to or not.

“The same way that craft beer started and, for the longest time, was ignored and then exploded, there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen in this space,” Burggraeve added, also noting that his colleagues should follow suit lest be left in the dust. “There will be part supplementing and part complementing. The jury is out on how and where that will happen.”

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FCC nixed a 40+ year old rule blocking broadcast media mergers

(BUSINESS NEWS) The FCC is on a tear this month, this time dismantling a decades-old rule that supporters and critics are butting heads over.

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In a 3-to-2 vote last week, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rolled back media merger rules that have been around since the 1970s. These 42-year-old regulations prevented a handful of companies from owning the majority of media outlets in a market.

One now defunct rule stipulated TV stations in the same market couldn’t merge if the combo would mean there were fewer than eight independently owned stations as a result. Another rule prohibited a single company in a market from simultaneously owning a TV station and a daily newspaper.

Additionally, the original stipulations restricted how many TV and radio stations a company could own in a single media market. The FCC also approved Next Gen TV, a new broadcast standard expected to improve targeted ads as well as higher quality video and audio for on-air television.

Further easing media creation, last month, the FCC voted to nix a rule that required broadcasters to have a physical studio in their licensed market.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says these long-standing rules have made it difficult for smaller outlets like websites, blogs, and podcasts to thrive in a media landscape vastly different from the one that originated the regulations.

“Few of the FCC’s rules are staler than our broadcast ownership regulations,” Pai said. By eliminating them, he said, “this agency finally drags its broadcast ownership rules to the digital age.”

The National Association of Broadcasters agreed with Pai, welcoming the changes. In a statement they noted the old rules “weakened the newspaper industry, cost journalism jobs and forced local broadcast stations onto unequal footing with our national pay-TV and radio competitors.”

However, opponents argue this change will lead to media monoliths, with even fewer companies controlling most media outlets. “Instead of engaging in thoughtful reform,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, “this agency sets its most basic values on fire.”

Predictably, shortly after the vote, Comcast hit up 21st Century Fox all like, “Hey let us buy those parts of your company Disney wanted earlier this year but now we can have it because the FCC said so, I hope.” Previously Fox was talking about selling most of the company to Disney but keeping sports and news. Although the talks aren’t ongoing, apparently there may still be a Disney/Fox deal on the table. Verizon also noted interest in acquiring portions of Fox as well to provide mobile streaming content.

Senate Democrats called on the FCC inspector general to launch a probe regarding impartiality of the vote.

They cited concerns about how the deregulation may benefit conservative broadcasting company Sinclair, who expressed interest in buying Tribune Media for $3.9 billion dollars. This purchase could now be possible without Sinclair selling off their other stations to receive FCC approval.

“This merger would never have been possible without a series of actions to overturn decades-long, settled legal precedent by Chairman Pai,” wrote 14 lawmakers in a letter. Sinclair declined to comment, while Pai merely assured these changes “will open the door to pro-competitive combinations that will strengthen local voices.”

Guess we’ll just have to see how things go when Disney and like three other companies own everything.

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Business News

Apple under fire for alleged patent infringement

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apple is again under fire for patent infringement, this one appearing to be less patent-trolly than some other claims.

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Apple is once again being investigated by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) for a possible patent infringement.

The investigation is looking into a complaint from Aqua Connect Inc and its subsidiary, Strategic Technology Partners. They are Nevada-based companies with headquarters in Orange, California, filing their complaint with the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Apple is already being investigated by USITC because Qualcomm claims that the company is using in violation of its patent by using Qualcomm’s modems to power devices like iPhones.

Earlier this month, Apple was also sued by an Israeli company, Corephotonics, which claims that the tech giant has used its patented designs in the dual lens cameras on iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus.

Likewise, Aqua Connect and Strategic Technology Partners claim that the company is using their patented technology without consent for features like screen-sharing and remote desktop on some MAC computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.

It appears that the USITC investigation will look into these claims, but may take a broader view and look into other possible patent infringements.

“Initially, our product had Apple’s full support. But years later, [they] built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission,” says Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect.

Apparently, Aqua Connect created the first remote desktop for Mac computers in 2008, but later they incorporated that technology into new products without permission from Aqua Connect. “These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems,” said Exley in a statement.

Because the USITC has the power to ban the sale of products in the U.S., most companies choose to settle out of court rather than risk such a ban. It remains to be seen how Apple will ultimately respond.

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