Fintech

Redfin cofounder sues company, alleges patent infringement

Lawsuit concerns 3D home-tour technology

Redfin cofounder David Eraker has filed legal action this week to stop Redfin from using image-based rendering patents owned by Surefield, a company he founded in 2012. Eraker left Redfin in 2006.

Eraker claims that Redfin copied aspects of the online home tour Surefield launched in April 2014.

Through the 3D home-tour technology launched in 2014, sellers no longer had to pay a 3% buyer’s agent commission to get buyers into their home.

Surefield developed its proprietary, virtual 3D home-tour system using computer-vision technology, giving buyers a realistic, remote tour of a home.

Just four months after Surefield launched its 3D home tours in 2014, Redfin released its product, 3D Walkthrough and Surefield claims it is based on the same image rendering technology with a similar interface.

Eraker is the third Redfin cofounder to file suit against the real estate company, according to Surefield.

In 2017, Eraker threatened litigation on another patent filing, and in 2014 Redfin Cofounder Michael Dougherty and former Chief Technology Officer David Selinger alleged that the company intended to cancel their shares as it prepared for its initial public offering.

“Surefield’s image-based rendering approach was a first-to-market solution to a critical last mile problem in residential real estate, which is to get people into houses, and Redfin quickly copied it,” Eraker said in a statement.

The issue Eraker saw with the patent infringement was with Redfin’s 3D home tours, leveraging technologies in image-based rendering and 3D reconstruction to automatically create models of a home for real estate sales that are both photorealistic and spatially navigable.

Surefield has been awarded claims by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its image-based rendering system, covering the use of composited images such as rendered panoramas, 3D reconstruction approaches to determining the geometry of a home, spatial data labels, and dynamically switching between multiple image-based rendering algorithms in the user interface to enable both photorealistic views of the home as well as different forms of spatial navigation and perspectives.

Surefield filed a claim for patent infringement this week in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in Waco, and seeks damages and an injunction, according to Surefield. The claim said that Redfin has repeatedly refused to stop using Surefield’s patents and has declined to license them.

Surefield also filed a second claim for misappropriation of intellectual property in King County Superior Court in Seattle. According to the claim, Redfin and Madrona Venture Group misappropriated intellectual property related to map-based search and other inventions dating from 2004 that are commonly used today in the iBuyer model of purchasing homes, where unsolicited offers are generated for unlisted homes.

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