The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) prevailed this week in a software copyright lawsuit when the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, upholding a Fifth Circuit decision in HAR’s favor.
The case, Real Estate Innovations Inc. v. Houston Association of Realtors Inc., dealt with HAR’s usage of organizational software. According to documents summarizing the Fifth Circuit’s decision, the software in question is “RE/minder loader v1.01,” a program that organizes information from the MLS into a digital property book.
Designed in 1992 by Johnnie Norsworthy and marketed by Real Estate Innovations (REI), the software was sold by REI for the next 13 years, with Norsworthy providing maintenance and any necessary upgrades to the program. In 2005, Norsworthy terminated his contract with REI.
REI alleged in its lawsuit that starting in 2002, Norsworthy, HAR and the numerous other defendants named in the case began issuing “copy products” to their clients that provided the same service as REI’s software with little (or none) of the cost. Beginning in 2003, REI alleged that their clients began canceling their subscriptions in favor of these other products, which they allege were secretly developed by Norsworthy.
A total of 11 claims were filed against the defendants, including copyright infringement, breach of contract and civil conspiracy. The Fifth Circuit ruled for the defendants on Nov. 16, 2009, but REI appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case and thus upheld the lower ruling.