A patent case begun in 2005 against a single Philadelphia real estate agent grew into something far larger that could have changed the face of online mapping forever. It was quietly closed in January, when a judge ruled against REAL, Ltd., which had alleged patent infringement against Move, Inc. and a number of other real estate map providers and users. Executive Editor Adena Schutzberg wraps up the case.
I don't want to restate the long and very complex case here. I covered an earlier "version" of the suit, which was against Diane Sarkisian, a successful agent in Philadelphia, in an article in Directions Magazine in 2005. I covered the various claims and counterclaims in All Points Blog, many of which were sent to me directly by Scott Tatro, who had a deal with REAL to license the patent. Inman.com, a real estate website, also covered many of the steps in the case.
Let's begin this final chapter in July 2009. REAL and Move filed a "Joint Motion for Claim Construction, presenting eight disputed claims under the '576 patent and five disputed claims under the '989 patent." Claim construction refers to the process of creating a single understanding of language that is disputed in a patent. There were eight such phrases in the first patent (4,870,576) and five in the second (5,032,989). The judge, George King, detailed his determination of the meaning of these disputed phrases and asked the parties to submit a status report suggesting a schedule for moving ahead.
Judge King then considered the Joint Stipulation of Non-Infringement, a document from both parties. The judge made a final ruling in late January 2010 based on that document and the Claim Construction document:
(1)Based on the Court's claim construction rulings set forth in the November 25, 2009 Order re: Joint Motion for Claim Construction Order [Dkt. No. 419] ("Claim Construction Order"), Real Estate Alliance Ltd. ("REAL") cannot establish that Move, Inc., National Association of Realtors, and National "Association of Home Builders (collectively, "Plaintiffs") have infringed, contributed to the infringement of, or actively induced infringement of any claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 4,870,576 ("576 Patent") and 5,032,989 ("989 Patent") (collectively, the "Patents-in-Suit") under 35 U.S.C. §§ 271(a), 271(b), and 271(c) by or through their ownership, operation, or maintenance of the Move Websites because the Move Websites did not perform certain of the claimed steps prior to the expiration of the Patents-in-Suit. (Order on Joint Stipulation on Non-Infringement, dated 1/26/10)As I understand this, REAL could not prove that Move had, in fact, infringed because its websites didn't perform steps required in the patents. The judge then ruled, apparently on the countersuit by Move, Inc. against REAL:
(8) Therefore, a Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) final judgment on the Second and Fifth Claims for Relief in Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (insofar as those claims are a mirror image of Claims I-III of REAL's Counterclaims) and on the dismissal of REAL's counterclaims is hereby ENTERED in favor of Plaintiffs and against REAL. (Order on Joint Stipulation on Non-Infringement, dated 1/26/10)The case is now closed per the final order from the judge:
In light of the Court's order re: joint stipulation of non-infringement, e-filed January 26, 2010, the above case is hereby STAYED. The above entitled action is administratively closed until further order of the Court. (Document 430, in Chambers, dated 1/26/10)Hopefully this decision for Move over REAL closes the door on similar suits for the long-term. But, as I noted in my 2005 article: "The patent  expires in 2008, but the licensee has six additional years to track down and litigate past infringers who did not license the patent."
Finally, why was there was no news on the decision from the traditional sources? It was REAL who was putting out all the news previously, and since it lost, it's had nothing to say.