Company Claims Patents On Generating A Map From A Database; Getting Real Estate Industry To Pay Up

from the lovely dept

Judith Lindenau alerts us to the news of a company named CIVIX-DDI, who holds two incredibly broad and obvious patents on generating maps from a database of location info:
  • Patent 6,385,622: "System and methods for remotely accessing a selected group of items of interest from a database."
  • Patent 6,415,291: "System and methods for remotely accessing a selected group of items of interest from a database."
Now, I know that patent system supporters always get angry at me for declaring patents obvious, but take a read through the claims (not the abstract) and I defy anyone who knows anything about programming to explain how these patents do not describe incredibly obvious concepts.

Either way, CIVIX-DDI has realized that pretty much every real estate company around likely has a map generated based on a database of location info. So it's been going after them. It originally went after Realtor.com and a variety of local multiple listing services (MLSs). After a bunch were threatened, the National Association of Realtors stepped in, and a few months ago negotiated a settlement, paying up to keep MLSs from facing patent infringement claims. Of course, that's just given the company more money, and so now it's suing Trulia, a useful real estate startup, as well. The industry is realizing that this is putting a serious crimp on much needed innovation in the real estate space:
“Traditionally the real estate industry has been served by a lot of independent software companies. Think about it, Top Producer was a couple brothers from Canada, Advanced Access, eNeighborhooods, Lone Wolf, Tarasoft, Rapattoni, W&R Studios, etc. I could think of a bunch more but hopefully you get the point. It’s not like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft have really focused on real estate software/technology,” W&R Studios co-founder, Greg Robertson told AGBeat.

Robertson continued, “These patent trolls are threatening the ability for these independent software companies to do business. Meaning, bigger companies who have the assets to pay the extortion money will end up being the winners. Independent software companies will either go out of business or get gobbled up by bigger companies. Both scenarios equal less choice for real estate professionals.”

Regarding VC backed companies like Trulia and Zillow, Robertson said, “whether you like them or not, they are the ones really investing and leading on the innovation side. So we are all in this fight together. The consequences are clear; less choice and less innovation.”
Bad patents and bad patent lawsuits are not just a problem for the tech industry. They're hitting pretty much every industry these days, and those who support a totally broken patent system and the awful patents they produce are doing serious harm to innovation and the economy.

Filed Under: maps, mls, patents, real estate
Companies: civix-ddi, trulia


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Aug 2011 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Auther does not know about patents or software engineering !

    It's fine that you don't ship bugs because seeing as you do medical stuff (as you say), it's fairly important you don't. People can die if you do. However that still isn't true for code that doesn't hold someone's life in the balance. There is such thing as "good enough" code and that's what's usually shipped. Otherwise Windows 7 would probably never be out, Firefox probably wouldn't exist, and chances are you wouldn't even be having a conversation on the Internet.

    Having bugs doesn't mean "doesn't work", and in the case of good enough code (such as whatever your OS of choice is and whatever your browser of choice is), it works almost all the time but sometimes there's an unforeseen problem. Life's the same way, sometimes plans just don't turn out the right way.

    As for the actual patent, I admit I don't have time to read the whole thing, but it honestly looks like a basic webapp that can be run from a smart phone that simulates an local info kiosk. The only part I don't get is why there's a fax machine ever involved because anyone who would use said webapp probably doesn't have a fax machine and as for printing, let's just say printing from the internet ain't something new. Not to mention, if the webapp is being run on a smart phone, probably won't need to print.

    Something _very_ similar could be made using only google maps. The hardest thing would be getting advertisers that give localized ads to fill up the screen.

    If we're basing patents based on the method to achieve a result, making a portable info kiosk out of smart phones/PCs is the logical next step from localized info kiosks when PCs weren't popular and the internet wasn't as fast and powerful. So either way, it's either a fairly obvious next step or a patent that covers any way of coding a system that lets users access a database and show places of interest on a map.

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