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NAR/Move Win Opening Battle in Legal War Against Zillow

by Peter Thomas Ricci

NAR and Move, Inc. have prevailed in their opening salvo against Zillow.

A Washington state judge has ruled in favor of Move, Inc. and the National Association of Realtors in what promises to be a long legal battle with syndication site Zillow.

The case, which dealt with breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets, was filed March 17 in Seattle following the controversial resignation of Errol Samuelson, who left his high-profile position at Move, Inc. (which oversees the operations of realtor.com) for the Chief Industry Development Officer role at Zillow.

Syndication Legal Brawl

The basic tenets of the NAR/Move lawsuit are quite simple: it states that Samuelson, given his intimate knowledge of Move’s business and plans, will misappropriate trade secrets and breach his contract and fiduciary duties with Move, given that his new position puts him in direct competition with realtor.com.

And the judge in the case, Washington State Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde, agreed with NAR/Move, ruling that Samuelson did indeed misappropriate trade secret information and copied it without authorization; her order also enjoined Samuelson from using and sharing any confidential trade secrets while employed at Zillow, including: activities relating to obtaining direct data feeds of listing data;   activities relating to developing CRM tools; activities which would circumvent ListHub.

An Ongoing Feud

Samuelson resigned his position with Move on March 5 of this year, and shortly thereafter became the second-highest paid executive at Zillow.

It was perhaps the most public setback yet for Move and realtor.com, which has long struggled to balance technological innovation with the more conservative leanings of its Realtor brand (one only has to follow the troubled history of its AgentMatch platform for an ideal case study).

And indeed, innovation has never been more pivotal for realtor.com. According to the latest numbers, the website is the third most visited syndication site on the Internet with a 7.26 percent market share; that trailed Trulia’s 8.66 percent, and was far behind Zillow’s mammoth 16.53 percent – a number that, no doubt, made Samuelson’s move sting all the more.

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