Move (MOVE) and the National Association of Realtors have just won the opening battle against Zillow (Z) and Errol Samuelson, chief industry development officer for Zillow, in what promises to be a hard-fought lawsuit over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of trade secrets.
Washington State Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde issued Wednesday a preliminary injunction in the case, finding that Samuelson misappropriated trade secret information by acquiring it using improper means, and by copying it without authorization.
A spokesperson for Zillow told HousingWire the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
The order also enjoins Samuelson, a former Move employee, from using and sharing any trade secrets and confidential information gained while employed at Move, Inc., and from specific activities key to his new position at Zillow.
Samuelson resigned March 5, 2014, as Move’s chief strategy officer and that same day joined competitor Zillow as the company's second-highest paid executive.
Move and Zillow are in direct competition in the housing data space, even as the housing data industry is rapidly evolving.
Move and NAR filed suit March 17 in state court in Seattle.
The lawsuit alleges that Samuelson’s vast knowledge of Move's trade secrets and strategies will make it impossible to function in his new job at Zillow without divulging those secrets. The National Association of Realtors and its subsidiary Realtors Information Network, Inc. joined as plaintiffs in the suit.
Key activities from which Samuelson is enjoined, in relation to the duties at Zillow:
- Prohibits activities relating to obtaining direct data feeds of listing data
- Prohibits activities relating to developing contact relationship management (CRM) tools
- Prohibits activities which would circumvent ListHub
The injuction order can be read here.