What's Wrong With Just Competing In The Market? Zillow Sues Trulia For Patent Infringement

from the focus-on-innovation,-not-lawsuits dept

In the Wired story about Trulia’s IPO (which oddly, again, suggests that a massive stock price bump on day one is “good,” rather than a sign of a company leaving lots of money on the table), there is a somewhat random aside about how Zillow and Trulia are the two key competitors in the space, and noting that Zillow sued Trulia for patent infringement just recently.

The patent, 7,970,674, is for “Automatically determining a current value for a real estate property, such as a home, that is tailored to input from a human, such as its owner.” Got that? Basically, it’s for Zillow’s “Zestimator” that seeks to take a guess at what any particular house might be worth (an estimate that — from my view — often seems completely inaccurate in my own neighborhood, but others may differ). It’s a nice feature, no doubt, and it’s one that Trulia apparently added to its site… hence the lawsuit.

Even if we assume that Trulia saw what Zillow was doing and flat out copied it — is that really a problem? Looking specifically at this example (and my experience with Zillow’s estimates) this is the kind of thing where it seems like a really good thing to have more competition, driving each company to make their offering even better and more accurate and useful. In other words, just compete in the market and let the best service win. In the past I’ve been a big fan of Zillow, so I’m disappointed to see them going after competitors with patents, rather than focusing on innovating. It did get me to go check out Trulia again, however, something I hadn’t done in years. Though I doubt that was Zillow’s intention.

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Comments on “What's Wrong With Just Competing In The Market? Zillow Sues Trulia For Patent Infringement”

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Garrett says:

Thinking this is personal

So I’ve been recently in the market for a new place and was curious about any alternatives to Zillow. Just 3 days ago I looked for some and found Trulia. They have some really neat offerings and I really think that Zillow is smacking down because Trulia looks to become a fast riser.

Lots of other sites are using estimates (I even found one that asks people to crowdsource the estimate) but Trulia’s also doing really cool things like puting in crime overlays, school ratings and a “walking score” which I found pretty cool (even if they did misidentify HEB’s corporate office as a grocery store).

So yeah, I think Zillow is correctly identifying Trulia as a threat, and they had this stick, so they used it. Shame…

Ben S (profile) says:

Screw Zillow

I hope Zillow burns. They incorrectly list my mom’s quit claimed off the title of my first house as a low-price sale. This led prospective renters to think that we were asking for too much in monthly rent when we put it on the rental market this summer.

Trulia seems to know the difference and does not show the quit claim in the sale history.

Ben S (profile) says:

Re: Re: Quit Claim Deed


Thanks for at least reaching out, but I’m confused:

If I need to send email to some hidden address, then what is the point of the flag button next to the erroneous entry on my house’s Zillow page that is supposedly for submitting corrections?

My wife and I have each used that flag icon to submit corrections several times or the past 1-2 years, and Zillow has ignored it.

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