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Brokerage allegedly clones Estately’s multi-million dollar website

Intellectual property is a serious matter, particularly when it comes to product design and website code. One Canadian real estate group allegedly used Estately.com’s code on their own site, and Estately will “vigorously defend” their intellectual property.

Estately’s intellectual property

Seattle based real estate search company, Estately.com intended to quietly handle what they allege to be Sutton WestCoast Realty’s intellectual property theft, having copied the code from Estately and using it for the design of their own website. Local tech writer, John Cook at GeekWire.com heard about the allegations and the issue was no longer a quiet problem held closely to the vest.

Galen Ward, CEO and Co-Founder of Estately told AGBeat that Estately has sent Sutton a cease and desist letter but has not heard back from the company, while GeekWire reports Sutton declines to comment but notes the issue is being handled by the company’s lawyers.

Ward said, “They copied the code that was live on Estately 3-4 months ago. They have changed a few words and they de-minified our javascript and CSS. That’s the extent of what has changed.”

Comparing the two sites

Below is a screenshot taken of Estately.com, followed by a screenshot of Sutton WestCoast Realty as captured by GeekWire.com, click either to enlarge.

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Spotting the differences

Ward said, “We’ve spent millions of dollars developing Estately. Having a clone that is using our copyrighted works in Vancouver (that could grow elsewhere) will materially impact the valuation of the company and our ability to raise money, and would make opening Estately in Vancouver – a market that would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in revenues – a non-starter.”

Estately has received funding and even participated in the 500 Startups incubator program in 2010 and says that while they have had competitors copy individual features and design concepts, they have never before had a “wholesale copying of our functionality and codebase.”

Although Estately indicates they hope to resolve this outside of the court system, Ward said, “We will do whatever it takes to defend our copyright – including suing if necessary,” adding, “We are vigorously defending our [intellectual property] IP.”

As of publication, the search function on the Sutton WestCoast Realty website appears as follows for all attempts at searching the site:

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jeff Burke

    April 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I could ask all kinds of questions concerning this issue. It seems to me that it would be a challenge to prove one copied anothers map search unless you could PROVE they lifted the code. Once something is in the public domain it seems to all change. Are Estately’s screens patented? Is that even possible? I am not an IP attorney so I have no idea.

    I do know that I am a startup in the exact same space and we try to improve on everything that is currently in the public domain. There are some innovative ideas on how to create a map search but I presume if they aren’t patented they are fair game to replicate.

    The screen shots are obviously similar but how different is any map search from the next? What influenced or inspired the map that Estately uses? Did they ever look at Zillow, Trulia or Redfin? Heck, I have never even heard of these guys much less seen their maps and I’ll tell you right now that our beta map search which is already well into development resembles them both. There are only so many ways to do basic map search.

    I’m not sure about the ability to accuse someone of stealing the code unless there is something more to this story than meets the eye. Did any of the coders do work for both companies? Was there a relationship bn the two companies that went south?

    Lots of questions…

    • Jeff Burke

      April 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

      Yuk…this stinks. As noted in last paragraph of previous post, there does seem to be a previous relationship of 3 years according to other sources and if that is the case I hope Estately buries these guys! Zero tolerance for this type of activity, especially if it originated from a working relationship.

    • Galen

      April 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Jeff, this is a copyright and IP concern, not patents.

      Make beautiful map search interfaces, just don’t copy our code or use our code as your starting point.

      • Jeff Burke

        April 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm

        I rescind any previous question of doubt and hope you guys can prove it up. That is wrong on so many levels. It has happened to me before and I hope you guys get your day! Best of luck!

  2. Kevin Lisota

    April 6, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Jeff,

    Sutton had a contract to use Estately for 3 years. At the end of the 3 years, they lifted icons/css/js/html directly to create a clone. There is no question of the theft here. If you looked at the underlying code, most of it was identical.

    We had a similar relationship with Estately that disallowed reverse engineering and derivative works. Clearly this was a derivative work, which is probably why the site has now been down for over a day.

    • Jeff Burke

      April 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      That is SO jacked up! I hope they can prove it and are able to prosecute to the fullest extent.

  3. Larry

    April 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Well this is probably one case of the DMCA coming in handy.

  4. RossK

    April 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Are you guys serious or is this an april fools post.

    This is a common idx template that is already available for FREE to anyone. This exact same template is used on hundreds of sites.

    And…if anyone wants to start discussing copyrights and IP lets start talking about such thefts in the current syndication process.

    I own the copyright on every listing I create and publish. The MLS does not own that copyright.

    Now call your attorneys.

    • Alex Cortez

      April 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Ross, when you input your listing on your local MLS, do you NOT agree to have it syndicated?

      You said that you ‘own the copyright on every listing I create and publish’. Since you feel your ‘copyright’ is being infringed upon, perhaps it’s time YOU call your attorney

  5. Josh Nekrep

    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I don’t know any of the details here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the case that those who commissioned the “copy” site weren’t technical enough to recognize the error of their ways. They’ll blame it on the web developer, and the web developer will say they were only doing what was asked of them. There’s bound to be a lot of playing dumb when/if this makes its way to court, and likely nothing substantial will come of it other than the fact that it will remain down and they’ll come out with a new site.

  6. Ken Granger

    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    No reputable web developer should ever copy another sites work even if instructed by their client to do so. You might get some hack, or over seas company to do that, but a legit web company knows better.

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