PropertyGuru Pte. Ltd. and 99.co have been entangled in legal proceedings for nearly a year-and-a-half over allegations of copyright infringement, according court documents obtained by e27.

Both sides confirmed the validity of the case.

“PropertyGuru believes it is important to protect the privacy and copyrights of its customers. In April 2016, we filed a Writ of Summons against 99.co. The case has been heard in the court since then. The next hearing is this week. As the matter is pending before the court, we do not comment on such,” a PropertyGuru spokesperson told e27.

Darius Cheung, the CEO of 99.co, told e27, “[It] reminds me of a quote from Gandhi – ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ ”

PropertyGuru’s claim that 99.co infringed on its copyright in largely thanks to a third party tool called Xpressor. The product allows property agents to cross-post on multiple real estate portals with only a few clicks.

This meant a lot of listings with a PropertyGuru watermarks wound up on the 99.co website.

99.co partnered with Xpressor to provide the service to agents but has since ceased the agreement.

The specific time of the complaint spans from January 25, 2016 to May 11, 2o16.

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PropertyGuru’s complaint breaks down into three claims:

  • 99.co allegedly violated a settlement agreement from September 2015.
  • 99.co allegedly induced agents to breach PropertyGuru’s Terms of Service contract
  • 99.co allegedly reproduced photographs on its site that had a PropertyGuru watermark and thus infringed on the plaintiff’s copyright.

99.co denies all the claims and is filing a countersuit for groundless threats of infringement. The claim is that the causes for action are unfounded and PropertyGuru is merely trying to stifle competition.

Understanding question at hand

What the courts will have to decide is whether or not 99.co, by using Xpressor, is responsible for the watermarked images that wound up on its website. Furthermore, there is a question as to whether or not they are even copyrightable material.

When visiting the website, the watermark is fairly obvious, and clearly has a logo. However, the photos were likely taken by the agents or an assistant, so 99.co is arguing the agents have copyright protections, but PropertyGuru does not.

PropertyGuru also argues that by using the Xpressor application, 99.co failed to curtail the reproduction of its proprietary listings for commercial use, and even induced agents to violate the plaintiffs Terms and Use policy.

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The counterargument is Xpressor is operated by the property agents, not 99.co and, hence, amounts to user generated content.

99.co’s defence relies on the courts agreeing that it is the real estate agents — not the defendant — reproduced their own photos and Xpressor was a tool they used.

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