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The modern Supreme Court of Singapore (L) and the Old Supreme Court Building (R) / Photo credit: Socksiong / Wikimedia Commons

Online property portal 99.co did not commit copyright infringement when agents cross-posted listings from rival site PropertyGuru, the Singapore Supreme Court ruled today.

However, the court judged that 99.co had partially breached an earlier settlement agreement it entered into with its competitor.

In its lawsuit filed in April 2016, PropertyGuru alleged that 99.co had:

  • Breached a settlement agreement that both parties entered into in September 2015.
  • Induced third-party property agents to breach PropertyGuru’s terms of use.
  • Infringed copyright by reproducing watermarked photos from PropertyGuru on its site.

99.co’s initial responses to these allegations claimed that:

  • End users (i.e., third-party property agents) were the ones who reproduced content that allegedly belongs to PropertyGuru.
  • It was unaware of PropertyGuru’s terms of use for property agents, and therefore lacked the knowledge and intention to induce PropertyGuru’s users to violate its policies.
    Property agents are merely exercising their own copyright by cross-posting content from PropertyGuru to 99.co using third-party software.
  • The third-party software in question is an app called Xpressor, which allows agents to cross-post property listings on different sites.

99.co also accused PropertyGuru of making groundless threats of legal proceedings relating to its copyright infringement claims.

See: PropertyGuru is taking 99.co to court over copyright infringement and more

In a 52-page judgment released today, the court found that 99.co partially breached the terms of the settlement agreement it entered into with PropertyGuru in September 2015. The breach related to 99.co’s provision of a service to real estate agents that could lift their listings from PropertyGuru’s site and re-post them on 99.co.

The court ruled that PropertyGuru could proceed with assessing the amount of damages it believes it is owed from 99.co’s breach of contract. It also granted a injunction against 99.co to ensure it ceases the cross-posting service within the next 30 days.

It has been a gruesome, expensive and time consuming journey – one that no startup should have to endure.

With regards to PropertyGuru’s two other allegations – that 99.co had infringed its copyright and had induced estate agents to violate its terms of use – the court sided with 99.co, dismissing PropertyGuru’s claims.

The court also dismissed 99.co’s counter-claim that PropertyGuru had made groundless threats.

Both companies claimed victory following the verdict.

“Today, we are grateful that justice, fairness and common sense prevailed. We have won, the internet has won, and the judgement is clear,” 99.co founder and CEO Darius Cheung said in a statement on the company’s blog.

“For our young team, it has been a gruesome, expensive and time consuming journey – one that no startup should have to endure, but in the end, it was worth it.”

If a business takes an unfair shortcut and breaks the rules, it should be held to account.

PropertyGuru co-founder and executive director Jani Rautiainen said he was “very happy” with the court’s decision.

“Today’s verdict sends a strong message about fair play and good business ethics,” he said in an emailed statement. “There are no shortcuts to success. If a business takes an unfair shortcut and breaks the rules, it should be held to account for it. The defendant broke the rules and we are happy that the court today has validated that.”

‘Priority’ given to PropertyGuru cross-postings

During a five-day hearing last September, 99.co founder and CEO Darius Cheung told the court that his startup helped to develop and maintain Xpressor, though the app itself was owned by a separate company called Media Publishing Group, reported The Straits Times.

Cheung said he did not know whether the servers behind the app belong to Media Publishing Group or 99.co.

He also told the court that he “mutually agreed” with a director of Media Publishing Group that “priority” would be given to PropertyGuru listings to be cross-posted on 99.co, but that both companies wanted to further develop Xpressor so that agents could cross-post onto other sites.

However, Xpressor was removed from app stores in January 2016, reported Channel NewsAsia.

PropertyGuru’s Singapore site had 1.86 million total visits last month, while 99.co’s clocked just over 591,000, according to data provider SimilarWeb.

PropertyGuru previously told Tech in Asia that SimilarWeb’s data does not factor in mobile app traffic or its commercial property site, CommercialGuru.

PropertyGuru also runs portals in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, 99.co has been on an overseas expansion drive, acquiring Indonesia’s UrbanIndo – which had 2.04 million total visits in February – earlier this year and targeting entry into two other Southeast Asian markets in the near future.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

This post 99.co and PropertyGuru each claim victory in copyright and contract dispute appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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