Is REBNY using R.O.L.E.X. proprietary information for new listings platform?

The Real Estate Board of New York’s choice of developer for its nascent property listings transmission system, Stratus Data Systems, is relying on proprietary information from the existing R.O.L.E.X. system to build the new technology, according to the creator of the current technology, whose proposal for a new system was rejected.

Eric Gordon, managing director of RealPlus and creator of the real estate listings platform R.O.L.E.X., said REBNY had asked him to hand over the proprietary information, as Stratus begins implementing the replacement platform.

“They weren’t going to reinvent the wheel,” Gordon said of Stratus. “They were expecting to use our wheel so it wouldn’t cost them anything to build that wheel.”

The question of who controls the platform has been an ongoing source of tension between RealPlus and REBNY, Gordon said.

REBNY requested proposals in June 2010 for a new transmission system that would, among other things, comply with the nationally-recognized Real Estate Transaction Standard. REBNY received eight proposals, including one from RealPlus, according to Steven Goldschmidt, a broker at Warburg Realty and chair of REBNY’s technology committee.

Instead of choosing RealPlus, REBNY went with Stratus, which is expected to launch its system within a year.

But Gordon, who stressed that he is cooperating with REBNY, insisted that his recently launched fee-based version of R.O.L.E.X, dubbed R.O.L.E.X. 2.0, has the needed features, including compliance with RETS.

Without R.O.L.E.X. in place, Katonah, N.Y-based Stratus would have to work with the individual firms to develop a way to get listings to them, Gordon said. He assumed that using the existing infrastructure enabled the company to underbid him.

But Goldschmidt said there was no need for Gordon to give proprietary information to Stratus, which has built Multiple Listings Services for other markets, including Long Island and Toronto.

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“If Eric thinks that they’re stealing his corporate secrets, that’s beyond my pay grade,” Goldschmidt said, although he noted that brokers and vendors like RealPlus are providing Stratus with data.

A representative for Stratus declined to comment.

In commissioning a new platform, REBNY was motivated by a desire to take advantage of the latest technology, Goldschmidt said.

“If the car is working, do you still feel that it’s safe to drive a 10-year-old car?” he said.

Gordon suggested that REBNY’s reason for commissioning a new system was to gain full control over it. While REBNY is a regulator looking out for the community, RealPlus is a business looking out for paying customers — motivations that don’t always overlap, according to Gordon.

Gordon insisted that his recently launched fee-based version of R.O.L.E.X, dubbed R.O.L.E.X. 2.0, has the needed features, including compliance with RETS. The Stratus system is expected to go live within a year, Goldschmidt said.

“They use us as a hammer,” he said. “Every year when the agents need to pay their dues, and some agents perhaps are a little tardy in paying their dues, what [REBNY] does is, they say, ‘Look we need you to turn these companies off.'”

Until Stratus is in place, it’s unclear how much the company will have to rely on R.O.L.E.X. technology, Gordon said, and he hasn’t ruled out charging a license fee, although he stressed that it is still early in the process.

“If it requires a lot of work on our part, we have a right to want to charge for it,” Gordon said.

R.O.L.E.X, launched in 2002, sends listings information free of charge to more than 500 REBNY member firms. The firms then pay to use different interfaces, such as RealPlus, Online Residential or in-house platforms, to access the listings.

Last Friday, Gordon launched a Web-based version of the RealPlus interface, called Jaguar, which will also allow agents to access listings from tablet computers and smartphones.

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