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.

Filed Under: competition, patents

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  1. identicon
    RD, 26 Sep 2012 @ 6:06am


    "Even if we assume that Trulia saw what Zillow was doing and flat out copied it -- is that really a problem? "

    Yes! DUH! Because no one would bother to invent real estate if they didnt have protection! Without patents there would be no land to sell!

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