Patent Law

Court revives 'infamous' patent dispute involving online map searches for real estate


A company that owns the patent for finding real estate with the help of zoom-enabled computer maps is getting another chance to prove infringement.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit revived the patent claim in a March 4 opinion (PDF), report Reuters, Bloomberg BNA and Ars Technica.

The patent holder, Real Estate Advisors, was co-founded by inventor and original patent holder Mark Tornetta. The dispute “has become infamous in real estate circles,” Ars Technica says. “Since online maps are ubiquitous in the real estate market,” the story says, “Tornetta and his lawyers believe they’re owed money by just about every real estate agent or service in the nation.”

A federal judge had ruled against Real Estate Advisors because the alleged infringer’s interactive websites required users to make search choices. But the Federal Circuit said the lower court judge should consider whether the alleged infringer, real estate company Move Inc., is liable for indirect infringement for “inducing” infringement by users.

This joint infringement theory was expanded in August 2012, after the trial judge’s ruling, in an en banc Federal Circuit decision called Akami Technologies v. Limelight Networks, Ars Technica says. In that case, the Federal Circuit said patent infringement can occur even when no single party performs all the steps of a patent. The Federal Circuit said the trial judge should consider the patent claim in light of Akami.

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