With Settlement, Realtors® Claim Patent Abuse Victory

When several real estate businesses complained of overly broad patent-infringement lawsuits, the National Association of Realtors® stepped up.

Data Distribution Technologies, a subsidiary of the patent enforcement firm General Patent Corporation, engaged the businesses over the past year disputing the use of a technology-related patent. NAR, however, described the effort as an “overly broad and thinly-veiled effort to exploit real estate businesses for licensing fees,” and has also long opposed what they describe as abuse in the patent system by so-called “patent trolls.”

NAR challenged the patent’s validity before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and filed a declaratory judgement lawsuit on behalf of NAR members.

The result was a settlement, announced this week, requiring DDT to refrain from enforcing its patent in the real estate industry. A covenant included in the settlement specifically notes that NAR members, associations, MLSs, affiliates, and other related entities are protected from potentially costly legal action.

NAR President Tom Salomone hailed the announcement, reiterating NAR’s commitment to combating patent abuse.

“When Realtors® fall victim to abuses in the patent system, NAR is going to have their back,” he said. “We’re hopeful that today’s settlement will remind patent trolls across the country that this type of exploitation is unacceptable and won’t go unanswered.”

Although the settlement represents a significant win for NAR, Salomone also acknowledged that additional work is required. Specifically he cited the need to reform the patent system, an effort NAR has been actively working towards with support for H.R. 9, the Innovation Act, and S. 1137, the PATENT Act.

“NAR believes in the protection of legitimate intellectual property rights, but we’re ready and willing to invalidate frivolous patent claims aimed at our members,” Salomone said. “To fully defend business owners across the country, however, we need significant reforms to the system that offer robust protections against patent trolls. We’re urging legislators to take a hard look at that in the months ahead.”

Recent data shows that 2015 saw the most patent disputes in history, with patent trolls composing nearly two-thirds of patent litigation that same year.