US market-leading portal company Zillow has been accused of seeking a vague catch-all patent in order to sue or bar entry to competitors. The allegations center around a patent filed in April and published in August that relates to the presentation and transition “that simulates viewer movement between the viewing locations”. Popular industry blog TheAmericanGenius has been pretty scathing in its condemnation of Zillow’s behavior around patents on more than one occasion and did not hold back in its assessment of the latest Zillow intellectual property grab, saying “Even for the patent fiends themselves, this one is a stretch.”
The patent abstract does indeed somewhat generic in its scope and could easily be interpreted as describing either virtual tours or simple image sequencing in property listings.
“Techniques are described for, given two images taken at two viewing locations, generating and presenting an image transition sequence that simulates viewer movement between the viewing locations, such as without using information about relative distance between the viewing locations and other depth information to objects in an environment around the viewing locations. The start and end images for an image transition sequence may be part of panorama images acquired at the viewing locations, and generating of the image transition sequence may include selecting and using one of multiple types of transition sequences to perform rotating (e.g., from a start image's viewing direction to face toward the viewing location for the end image), zooming (e.g., to simulate moving forward), and/or blending of the end image with a modified version of the start image, with the resulting image transition sequence played as a video or other animation”
The Seattle based American real estate giant is gaining something of a reputation when it comes to patents and was recently involved in a patent spat with software giant IBM and was sued by a brokerage in a dispute related to its ‘search and retrieval system’ in April.