Judge Denies Request in Real Estate Mapping Class Action Motion
Editor's Note: We share this article
submitted by Scott Tatro on the continuing lawsuit between REAL, llc
and Diane Sarkisian, a real estate agent from Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Briefly, Sarkisian is being sued for patent infringement
for using software that does real estate mapping.
We appreciate Tatro's continued efforts to share the complex twists and
turns in the lawsuit. However, we cannot print his article without
noting his interest in the patent in question. You can read Tatro's
self-written full bio
at InmanWiki, but we want to point reader's attention to this section
"In early 2003 Mr. Tatro was notified of some particularly disturbing
news regarding the USPTO 5032989 license he had earlier acquired. It
appeared that the patent holder Real Estate Alliance Limited (REAL llc)
was intending on bringing wide-spread enforcement action against many
of the companies who were actively utilizing the technology without
licenses. Mr. Tatro seized the opportunity to secure his licensing
status through active negotiations with the patent holders. Soon, the
http://www.FindaHome.com brand began to take shape, and Tatro looked at ways
to build technology value-added solutions which would bundle-in the
5032989 licenses which most agents and brokers were lacking as an
alternative to the planned $10,000 per agent license price targeted by
REAL llc. The patent holders have begun their enforcement and EQUIAS
has found itself in the midst of a significant torrent of controversy.
Many of those issues are chronicled at www.FullyLicensed.info."
On September 21st, Judge Golden of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
denied a request for certification of a Class Action Motion filed in
the patent infringement suit, REAL v. Diane Sarkisian. The
plaintiff/patent holder, REAL Inc, filed the motion in support of its
ongoing 2005 patent enforcement efforts for USPTO 5032989 "Real Estate
Search and Location System and Method. REAL claims ownership of the
invention of an interactive mapping methodology that plots properties
on graphical maps, a practice that industry leaders acknowledge appears
to be utilized by many of today's advanced location-based Web sites to
locate available properties.
According to documents submitted to the court earlier this year, if the
court had approved the class action certification, it would have likely
implicated hundreds of thousands of real estate agents and brokers all
across America. The reason for this wide-reaching effect was that the
motion sought certification of a class definition that would have
included all customers of REALTOR.com over the past 3-5 years who
contracted for enhanced listing promotion.
According to the motion submitted by the patent holder plaintiff, this
certification was an attempt to identify and streamline the enforcement
actions against a pervasive user-base of infringers in this space. A
Class Action is a legal administrative protocol that is designed to
avoid redundant and repetitive filings, similar to this initial case
filed against this individual Pennsylvania agent, by or against
multiple parties with essentially the same legal circumstances.
In its denial of certification, the court indicated that a key element
of its decision relied upon the premise that the defendant "Sarkisian's
interests did not necessarily align with the proposed class at large".
In its decision the court sites that "the level of personal animus that
Sarkisian displays toward REAL, however, suggests that her goals for
this litigation stretch beyond simply determining whether REAL's patent
is valid and has been infringed". The decision goes on to further
state, "To an impartial observer, this appears to be a commercial
dispute that might be settled for a reasonable sum per class member;
Sarkisian's countersuits suggests that she, and the legal team that
represent her in both matters, would be unable to represent the class
effectively in settlement negotiations."
Although the court found that certification of this Class Action would
not create a superior method for resolving this dispute, it seemed
clear that a resolution that included REAL's ability to continue
enforcing its patent rights against large numbers of real estate
professionals throughout the US remained very much in tact.
What once appeared to be an industry-lead and financed legal defense of
a specific defendant that was clearly invested to protect the greater
interests of real estate professionals around the country, may have
just been removed as a legal focal point of defense by this courts
decision not to certify the Class Action Motion. It appears to leave
the door open for a threat of litigations being launched independently
against individual agents and brokers all across the country. From an
industry perspective, it is difficult to determine if this denial of a
class action motion for the patent holder is good news or bad.