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Zillow sues Trulia in new patent lawsuit [exclusive]

Zillow’s Zestimates have long been in the spotlight in the real estate industry, but will now be the center of attention during a potential patent trial.

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Zillow, Inc. v. Trulia, Inc.

Two real estate media companies are about to go head to head in a lawsuit filed today by Zillow, alleging Trulia has infringed on Zillow’s patented technology that valuates properties, known as Zestimates, by launching “Trulia Estimates” for public consumption.

Zillow filed for the patent in February of 2006 and was granted in June of 2011, U.S. Patent Number 7,970,764 for an invention entitled “Automatically Determining A Current ValueFor A Real Estate Property, Such As A Home, That Is Tailored To Input From A HumanUser, Such As Its Owner.”

Filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington at Seattle, this lawsuit says, “When Trulia first launched Trulia Estimates, it was obvious tocommentators that Trulia was merely copying Zillow. Commentators accused Trulia of being a “copycat” of Zillow’s Zestimate service and predicted that Trulia’s copycat versionmight “ding” Zillow’s web traffic.”

Zillow seeks permanent injunction, damages

Of particular note is the patent lawsuit’s reference to Trulia’s recent S-1 filing for IPO status with the U.S. Securitites and Exchange Commission, in which Trulia refers to their Estimates as part of their efforts to raise $75 million.

“Trulia’s acts of infringement have caused damage to Zillow, and Zillow isentitled to recover from Trulia the damages sustained by Zillow as a result of Trulia’s wrongful acts in an amount subject to proof at trial.”

In addition to damages being sought in the amount to be determined during the demanded jury trial, Zillow is seeking a permanent injunction, which could effectively end Trulia Estimates if a court sides with Zillow.

Full lawsuit:

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. DannyDietl

    September 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    @JimDuncan #zillow revolutionized what, crappy data? @zillow @ZillowforPros

  2. Jason Sandquist

    September 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    As real estate agents front the bill….

  3. Gary McNinch

    September 13, 2012 at 12:01 am

    I wonder if the amount of damages that Zillow requests will be an “estimate” that is as accurate (LOL) as their original Zestimates! LOL

  4. Matthew Parrish

    September 13, 2012 at 1:07 am

    When the going gets tough, sue the competition!

  5. nicwinder

    September 13, 2012 at 1:34 am

    @andrearealtor Wait, zestimates inaccuracies doesn’t hurt zillow enough on its own and trulia can damage zillow further? That’s crazy.

    • AndreaRealtor

      September 13, 2012 at 8:15 am

      @nicwinder I don’t believe what one’s opinion is of the Zestimate is a fact in the litigation?

  6. Michael DeFilippi

    September 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Very negative move by Zillow.

  7. rqd

    September 13, 2012 at 9:57 am

    First American/CoreLogic sued Zillow for the Zestimate saying it violated FACL’s patent for AVM.  Zillow settled and paid for a license.  I’m not sure if Trulia was also named in FACL’s lawsuit but if they were, would a settlement with FACL play in Trulia’s favor? laniar 

  8. Jonathan Cardella

    September 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    This is a desperate and thinly veiled strategy by Zillow to derail Trulia’s IPO, as evidenced by the timing of the complaint. Zillow has known about Trulia’s AVMs for over a year, yet waited until the IPO filing to file its suit.
    While this is merely conjecture on my part, it is highly unlikely that this is a mere coincidence. The intention behind the timing of this suit must be to diminish the value of Trulia in the minds of investors, thereby sabotaging the IPO at a time when Trulia is most vulnerable. If I am correct in my assumptions, this is a disgusting tactic that should be met with a fierce counter-complaint by Trulia, especially if the IPO or valuation collapses before it comes to fruition.
    Further, if Trulia’s AVM feature was truly damaging to Zillow, they would have filed claim by October, perhaps November last year and then amended their complaint as needed, once they got their ducks in a row. This smacks of litigation filed in bad faith, in my untrained opinion (I am not a lawyer).
    Zillow’s AVM patent is a perfect example of the nonsense coming out of the USPTO. In order to be eligible for patent protection, a patent must be New or Novel, Useful, and Non-Obvious. Zillow’s patent only fulfills one of those requirements (usefulness). Brokers and appraisers have been doing property valuations/”CMAs” for many decades, as have appraisers, albeit they were done manually. Simply automating this process does not make it new or novel. And I would love to hear Zillow argue that an AVM was non-obvious in 2006. In fact, institutional investors have been using AVM technology since the late 1990’s.
    The USPTO routinely errs in granting patents that do no comport with US IP laws. A patent isn’t “hardened” until it is challenged via litigation. This is the first litigation involving the Zillow AVM patent and Trulia attorneys will attack this patent for not meeting these requirements. Only after this case will we know if Zillow has a patent that will stick.
    In conclusion, this case will be interesting because it will likely see the Zillow patent over-turned and a cross complaint from Trulia for any damages that result from the malicious timing and motivations behind this suit that seemingly go far beyond protecting IP, which is a recurrent theme in this industry, as I have learned first hand. And hopefully this skirmish will underscore the need for meaningful IP Reform in the US.
     

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Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Seasonal employment scams are back on the menu and here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation surrounding the holidays, employment scams typically have a resurgence during this season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions and beyond aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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Business News

Genomelink is a one-stop-shop for your DNA data, but is it safe?

(NEWS) Genomelink is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. Sounds cool…until you think about privacy.

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dna ancestry tests representing genomelink

Have you ever done one of those nifty home test kits to check your ancestry? In this new world where covid is a long-term reality and the resulting boom in telehealth services, genetic home test kits are seeing a comeback in popularity. What many consumers aren’t aware of, is what happens to their data after they get their report back. Now, there is a new contender in the market called Genomelink that is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. That sounds cool… until you start thinking about privacy.

Most of the major companies in the business don’t even give you the option to not have your data sold, but that fact is buried so far into the fine print, it is no wonder that people miss it. Research published in the journal Nature found that genetic-testing companies frequently fail to meet even basic international transparency standards. Unifying all this data into one dashboard product unlocks even more opportunities for your data to be compromised.

There are four big glaring red flags prospective users should be aware of:

1. Cyber security standards in the genetic testing industry are low-tier.

2. The protocols for how to make your information “anonymous” before they sell it en masse are laughably ineffective.

3. There are no restrictions on who can purchase it or for what purpose.

4. Genomelink is trying to build a platform to streamline access to this data for “all users everywhere.”

Genomelink Co-founder Tomohiro Takano provided the following quote on ProductHunt.com: “We believe in the future, billions of people will have access to their DNA data. When that happens, imagine: [the place] where you will store DNA data and how you [will] connect data [to an] app ecosystem. That will be Genomelink in a nutshell.”

As someone who lives with disabilities, the last people I want to have access to my DNA data are health or life insurance providers or other for-profit interests who may not have my best interests in mind. Genomelink’s vision sounds like the well-intentioned beginning of something with the potential to be abused in sinister ways.

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Business News

9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity

(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.

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productivity outside of the challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays

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 have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. 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 workweek. 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 workweek 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 working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps 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 are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give 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.

9-to-5 workdays are 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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