[GSDI Legal Econ] More on software patents affecting GI/GIS use
ral at alum.mit.edu
Mon Jul 25 11:10:19 EDT 2005
Thanks to Bruce Bannerman in Australia for pointing this one out to me,
courtesy of Yahoo on-line Finance News item. Yet another example of perhaps
why Europe is better off without software patents, as recently killed by
the European Parliament?
Philadelphia-Area Real Estate Agent Sued for Patent Infringement; Other
Agents Nationwide May Face Similar Action
Tuesday July 12, 1:29 pm ET
Federal Lawsuit Alleges Agent Violates 1991 U.S. Patent on Use of Online
Maps to Quickly Target Properties for Sale
PHILADELPHIA, July 12 /PRNewswire/ -- A local real estate agent who
describes herself as being in the top one per cent of all agents
nationwide, has been named in a Federal lawsuit that accuses her of patent
infringement by using a computer mapping system without acquiring a license
to use the enabling technology.
The civil lawsuit against Diane Sarkisian of Ambler, Pennsylvania is the
first of its kind. The suit naming Sarkisian was filed Tuesday in Federal
District Court in Philadelphia. Lawyers for the patent owner, Real Estate
Alliance, Ltd. (REAL), specifically noted that real estate agents
throughout the country may be infringing the patent and subject to legal
The U.S. Patent (No. 5,032,989), "Real Estate Search and Location System
and Method," was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1991,
at a time when the commercial use of the Internet was in its infancy. It
covers a mapping system "for locating available real estate properties for
sale, lease or rental using a database of available properties at a central
location and remote stations which use a graphic interface," according to
the document. The patent also includes a "drilldown" feature, under which
specific areas can be displayed in greater detail.
Real estate agents throughout the United States, like Sarkisian, use this
method as a valuable tool to locate desirable residential properties every
day as they work with their clients. (The National Association of Realtors
claims more than 1.11 million members.) The lawsuit states Sarkisian has
not obtained a license to use the underlying technology, and asks for
unspecified royalties plus court costs.
"The government has granted a patent, which is the right to enforce our
intellectual property ownership," said Andrew Rooke, president of Real
Estate Alliance, Ltd. (REAL), the patent's owner. "We intend to pursue
those who are profiting by using our patented invention without a license.
We have long been committed to mapping as a superior method for locating
properties. REAL is gratified that systems vendors and multiple listing
services who make mapping systems available to real estate professionals
have come to the same conclusion. REAL is just seeking the royalties to
which we are rightfully entitled."
As an example of REAL's commitment, the company states that it will not sue
TReND, the local multiple listing service, for patent infringement. Rooke
noted that prior to filing the lawsuit, REAL's lawyers contacted Sarkisian,
offering her a full license for a fraction of what she is believed to earn
annually from her use of the patented method. He further said that,
according to his company's calculations, an average residential real estate
agent may owe royalties of as much as $50,000 before the company's patent
expires in 2008.
Lawyers for REAL said other real estate agents have been notified about
their infringement of the company's patent as part of an ongoing process,
and said additional civil lawsuits will be filed against agents across the
United States who do not voluntarily obtain licenses.
Source: Real Estate Alliance, Ltd.
Roger A. Longhorn
Director, Info-Dynamics Research Associates Ltd
EC Projects Office
1A Potters Cross, Wootton
Bedfordshire MK43 9JG, U.K.
Computer voicemail & Fax +44 (0)870 134 6492
E-mail: ral at alum.mit.edu
Mobile +44 (0)7879 875288
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