The real estate company Zillow, Inc. has successfully managed to knock out the majority of claims in atrade secret lawsuit that accuses the company of stealing an idea on their website known as the “Coming Soon” listings. The ruling cited a lack of “sufficient specificity [in] the trade secret and nontrade secret proprietary information at the heart of its claims” when it dismissed all but one of the thirteen claims filed against the real estate company.

Facts of the Case

Top Agent Network Inc. is a members-only online community of real estate agents that filed the lawsuit against Zillow in the Northern District of California. In their complaint, Top Agent claims that Zillow feigned interest about investing in their operation in order to gain access to the information regarding their “Coming Soon” listings online. Top Agent claimed that the group had come up with a process to collect and distribute real estate listings on their website before the listings go public on the Multiple Listing Service.

The Multiple Listing Service is a list of properties online that are available to all registered real estate agents. This list is open and properties are available to all registered users at the same time. It is the main source of information for real estate websites like Zillow, and the complaint alleges that Zillow launched its own“Coming Soon” website of properties not yet listed on the Multiple Listing Service a mere four weeks after cutting off talks with Top Agent about investment.

Dismissal of Claims

The judge in the Northern District found that Top Agent did not explain with enough specificity in their complaint what trade secrets were misappropriated by Zillow. As a result, the judge was unable to determine whether the trade secrets were protected under theCalifornia Uniform Trade Secrets Act. In addition, the judge found that Zillow did not violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or California's Computer Data Access and Fraud Act because the company accessed the information on Top Agent’s site using an authorized username and password.

However, the judge in the case has allowed Top Agent the ability to amend their complaint and resubmit it for consideration against Zillow. The judge also allowed a charge of a breach of oral contract that Zillow’s attorneys did not discuss in their motion to dismiss regarding Top Agent’s allegation that Zillow made an oral agreement to invest in their organization. It is unclear whether Top Agent has decided to amend its original complaint.

Call a California Trade Secret Attorney Today

Trade secret misappropriation is one of the most difficult issues to prove in court and often involve complex legal issues. If you are concerned about trade secret issues with your business or have other questions regarding trade secret law in Pleasanton, Alameda County, or the Tri-Valley area, let the experienced intellectual property attorneys atGarcia & Gurney help. Call the office orcontact us today for a confidential consultation of your case.