Zillow has partly shaken off a lawsuit against IBM after a court ruled that the portal had not breached patent law in response to IBM's claims that Zillow had used its tech to build its property search portal.
In a lawsuit dating back three years, IBM has claimed that Zillow piggybacked off seven of its patented technologies in the portal's home valuation tool and property search features—including list-based searches that show users results on a map display on their screen.
However, a three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favour of Zillow's appeal after agreeing that two of the patents under question lacked an inventive concept, were "abstract" in nature, and therefore patent-ineligible.
U.S. Circuit Judge Todd Hughes, writing for the majority, said:
"[IBM's] patents did not cover patentable improvements to computing and did not include any inventive concepts that would save them."
The two patents under question were invalidated and cancelled by the federal court as a result of the ruling, but the trial will continue next year with further claims still to be addressed.
A Zillow spokesperson said the company is happy with the decision and that it will "vigorously" contest the remaining claims.
The filing, instigated in 2019 by IBM, claimed that Zillow "built its business" by infringing IBM patents. IBM offered Zillow the chance to license the technology but sued after the portal refused. The two have been in a legal battle ever since, with various patents under scrutiny.
The original lawsuit stated:
"Because IBM’s over three-year struggle to negotiate a license agreement that remedies Zillow’s unlawful conduct has failed, IBM has been forced to seek relief through litigation.
"Among other relief sought, IBM seeks royalties on the billions of dollars in revenue that Zillow has received based on their infringement of IBM’s patented technology."
Zillow's legal team has spent a lot of time in the courtroom in the past two months. In September alone, an antitrust lawsuit against Zillow was thrown out for the second time, while Zillow was also sued for "online wiretapping" by two its users. Both cases are ongoing.