SmarterAgent sues HomeAway over patent infringement

The Keller Williams-owned platform has aggressively defended its GPS technology over the years

Mar.March 13, 2019 11:00 AM
From left: HomeAway President John Kim and SmarterAgent CEO and founder Brad Blumberg

UPDATED, 3:38 p.m.: SmarterAgent, the platform that connects hundreds of multiple listings services, filed a federal lawsuit against short-term rental company HomeAway, accusing it of patent infringement with the creation of a digital travel guide application.

SmarterAgent — which Keller Williams acquired in September — claims that HomeAway’s “Hospitality by Glad to Have You” steals its proprietory technology for the app that improves how location-based search queries are conducted.

The lawsuit — filed in U.S. District Court in Texas last month — suggests SmarterAgent’s claim rests on the real-time connection of market data with GPS information. HomeAway, owned by travel site Expedia, is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Neither SmarterAgent nor HomeAway responded to calls for comment.

The “Hospitality by Glad to Have You” app works as a kind of personalized travel guide for users who rent vacation homes on HomeAway, according to a description in Google Play’s app store. It provides users with information like restaurants and attractions in the area they are visiting, as well as “interactive maps that use your phone’s built-in GPS system.”

It’s not SmarterAgent’s first time in court over a patent infringement. The New Jersey-based company aggressively defended its technology in court before its acquisition by Keller Williams. It sued numerous real estate companies over technology that links listings and market data with GPS positioning.

Some of the real estate listing platforms SmarterAgent has sued over the years for similar patent infringements include Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy, and Hotpads, according to entrepreneur news site The American Genius.

SmarterAgent closely protects its technogloy because its primary business is packaging it as a platform, and selling it to agents and other companies to build their own branded apps. Its tech is able to link data from around 650 multiple listing services around the country.

Over the years, SmartAgent built a client base of around 300 brokerages including industry giants like Sotheby’s International Real Estate and Berkshire Hathaway. The Keller Williams purchase allows that business to continue.

The recent lawsuit offers a window into the highly competitive field for real estate technology, or proptech. The sector has gotten hotter over the last few years, with investors pouring billions into startups they think have the technology to change the real estate game.

Keller Williams’ acquisition is part of a push to compete with online consumer platforms like Redfin and Zillow.

Editor’s note: A spokesperson for Keller Williams said it does not own the SmarterAgent entity that controls the patents relevant to the HomeAway lawsuit. The spokesperson added that Keller Williams’ September purchase was of Smarter Agent Mobile LLC, a separate entity that owns a different set of mobile application technology.

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