Zillow is at it again. The real estate tech giant has filed yet another patent for “Connecting and using building interior data acquired from mobile devices.” So now they’ll have 2 patents that are almost identical.
Even if you’ve never toured a home as a prospective renter or buyer, I would bet that at this point in quarantine you have probably led at least one Facetime tour of your home for colleagues, friends, or family. You probably walked around your living room pointing out your robust plant collection, and depending on your audience, that one especially phallic cactus you are inappropriately proud of owning. You visited each room and stood in different corners to get the full effect of lighting, feng shui, and your inoperable vintage gum ball machine.
Now imagine instead of a live tour you took photos and videos to send along to someone else, to give them the full effect of visiting your home. Zillow’s application seeks to patent the automation of that very process of connecting cell phone collected visual records to produce an interior representation of a building, house, or other structure.
Zillow has a storied history of what some may consider patent trolling. Patent trolling is a term used to describe an entity which uses patents as a sort of demented legal circus ringmaster would to manipulate competitors. Trolls apply for a ridiculous number of patents to claim intellectual rights on technology that is commonly known and widely used, and then uses the collection of patents to threaten litigation on anyone who attempts to use the technology without permission. In order to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation, defendants often opt to pay licensing fees to the patent holder in order to use the technology and move on with their lives.
I wish I could tell you the government is too clever not to snuff out this sort of blatant manipulation of the American litigation machine, but that would really be fake news. Besides they might be a bit busy, what with a highly contagious pandemic sweeping the nation.