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Maybe you haven’t tangled with a troll, but this patent victory is for you

It’s common today for real estate brokerages to have systems in place for sending email alerts whenever there’s new or updated listings that customers might be interested in. it’s not new technology, and in fact the technology is arguably ubiquitous in the industry. Now imagine you get hit with a letter demanding you pay a fee for your use of that technology,

VRE 54 stillThat’s something real estate brokerages across the country have been faced with, and it’s why NAR has been working with lawmakers in Congress to get patent abuse curbs passed.

Although patent abuse seems like a straight-forward issue, getting Congress to agree on a solution isn’t easy because lawmakers are concerned about inadvertently hurting companies that hold valid patents and are entitled to patent protection within the law.

It’s against this backdrop that NAR took matters into its own hands and filed a claim with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and in federal court challenging the validity of the email alert patent held by Data Distribution Technologies, LLC. NAR argued the patent is for ordinary, garden-variety technology and isn’t owed patent protection. The company, in response, reached out to NAR and proposed a settlement in which it agreed to stop suing, and threatening to sue, companies for using the technology.

It’s one small victory in a much larger problem with patent trolls, but, as NAR Associate General Counsel Ralph Holmen has said, it sends a message to other patent trolls that the real estate industry is prepared to fight back and has the means to win. Because of that, the chances of your business getting distracted with an expensive, stressful, and time-consuming patent battle for using basic technology is far less likely than it was a few weeks ago.

The patent win is a lead story in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video. Another top story is a look at what’s going to happen in Washington in 2017, when there’s a new president and Congress in town. What will be the top issues? NAR Chief Lobbyist Jerry Giovaniello says the issues for housing will be tax reform, secondary mortgage market reform, and reauthorization of flood insurance. All of these issues have been put on the back burner for the last few years, but now that the government is getting a new start in 2017, expect them to be taken up with new vigor. REALTORS® have a lot at stake in how these matters get addressed. Secondary mortgage market reform is crucial to the amount of money lenders have to make mortgages with, and tax reform always puts the mortgage interest deduction and other residential and commercial real estate tax incentives under a spotlight.

The video also looks at home buyer and seller trends over the last 35 years. It was in 1981 that NAR launched its annual buyer and seller survey, and it’s informative to see how buyer and seller characteristics have changed over the years. For one thing, FSBOs have been in retreat. They account for only 8 percent of transactions today, down from 15 percent, and repeat buyers are much older today on average, 53 compared to 36.

Also in the video is a look at how big the housing gap is in metro areas across the country. The gap is measured against the number of jobs created, so in places where a lot of jobs have been created, like San Francisco and Denver, the gap can be huge, because housing permits just aren’t keeping up. Historically, for every 1.6 jobs created nationally, there’s been a new house or condo permitted. Now some areas are seeing more like one housing unit permitted for every 6.5 jobs created, and in some markets its even much bigger. In San Francisco, for instance, the gap is 18.5 to one.

The video also gives a head’s up on a live webcast in late October on new FHA condo financing rules that are coming out. The rules will implement NAR-backed changes that are supposed to make FHA insurance easier to get for buyers. The webcast will walk you through the rule and answer your questions.

Watch The Voice for Real Estate.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is director of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at rfreedman@realtors.org.

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