, , ,

Lawsuit claims ‘Trulia Estimates’ infringe on 2011 patent


The battle between the two most popular real estate portals has reached a boiling point. Property search and valuation company Zillow Inc. is suing rival Trulia Inc., alleging the latter’s automated property valuations infringe on a patent issued to Zillow last year. The suit comes on the heels of Trulia publicly filing for an initial public offering of 5 million shares of the company’s stock. Zillow went public last year.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in a U.S. district court in Seattle, Zillow alleges Trulia has infringed on U.S. Patent 7,970,674 B2. The patent’s title, “Automatically determining a current value for a real estate property, such as a home, that is tailored to input from a human user, such as its owner,” describes Zillow’s process for using information supplied by homeowners and real estate professionals to refine Zillow’s automatic home valuations, called “Zestimates.” Zillow applied for the patent on Feb. 3, 2006 and it was issued to the company June 28, 2011.

Zestimates have made the site popular with consumers and “have played a major role in Zillow’s success and growth,” Zillow said in the complaint. The valuations made waves in the real estate industry when the portal first debuted in 2006 and were a key differentiator for the company at launch.

Last September, Trulia rolled out its Trulia Estimates tool in beta, providing consumers with an assessment of a home’s worth. Trulia Estimates use an automated valuation model (AVM) that takes into account recent sales information for other homes in the area, and property characteristics taken from public records including the number of bedrooms and square footage as well as information provided by homeowners. Trulia Estimates launched nationally in March.

Zillow and Trulia both declined to comment for this story. Trulia is also in a “quiet period” during which the company is subject to a ban on discussing itself while in registration to go public.