September 2016 – The National Association of REALTORS® is declaring a major victory against patent abuse in a settlement with Data Distribution Technologies, a subsidiary of the patent enforcement firm General Patent Corporation. DDT sued and threatened several real estate businesses in the past over use of a technology-related patent, but 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.
NAR’s advocacy on behalf of its membership culminated in a settlement requiring DDT to refrain from enforcing its patent in the real estate industry; the covenant included in the settlement specifically notes that NAR members, associations, MLSs, affiliates, and other related entities are protected from potentially costly litigation.
DDT claimed their patent, titled “Web-Updated Database With Record Distribution By Email,” covered systems that provide agents and consumers with online searchable real estate databases that can update users via email about new information that comes available on those databases. NAR considered DDT’s patent invalid and enforcement of it an overly broad and thinly-veiled effort to exploit real estate businesses for licensing fees with the threat of high-cost litigation.
Although the settlement marks a victory for NAR, they acknowledged that additional work is required to broadly reform the patent system. NAR believes in the protection of legitimate intellectual property rights, but they’re ready and willing to invalidate frivolous patent claims aimed at its members. To fully defend business owners across the country, however, significant reforms are needed to the system that offer robust protections against patent trolls. NAR is urging legislators to take a hard look at that in the months ahead.