Sharp rhetoric as Singapore court rules 99.co did not violate PropertyGuru copyright

Kevin McSpadden
Sharp rhetoric as Singapore court rules 99.co did not violate PropertyGuru copyright

However, 99.co was found in breach of a previous settlement claim and will have to pay damages

The Singapore Supreme Court ruled today that 99.co, a Singapore-based property portal, did not violate the copyright of its rival PropertyGuru.

The core argument in this case was the result of a technology called Xpressor. The technology allows property agents to cross-post on multiple property listing sites simultaneously. This meant, a lot of PropertyGuru profiles (with the watermarking) were winding up on 99.co.

The logic cited by Judge Hoo Sheau Peng was that legal precedent meant the images — largely taken by ProperyGuru agents and then watermarked by the company — were not unique enough to be justifiably considered Property Guru copyright.

“In summary, the copying, enlargement, or resizing of artistic work, such as a drawing, painting or photograph, does not make the resulting image a copyright work.” she wrote in the summary.

Later she said that, in her judgement, watermark fell under this logic.

Also Read: (Exclusive) Former Siri employee’s startup Vahan.co raises funding from RMKB, Spike Ventures, angels

99.co did not come out of the case completely clean. Judge Hoo ruled that 99.co had partially breached a 2015 settlement agreement (but had not induced a property agent to due so) and would asses damages to be paid to PropertyGuru.

The agreement was to stop cross-posting images but then afterwards 99.co had “substantially” reproduced a listing that included nine photographs.

99.co had entered into a partnership with Xpressor but has ceased the relationship.

Sharp language from both parties

After the verdict, both parties claimed victory, but in doing so released pointed defences of their opinions.

In a blog post, Darius Cheung, the Founder and CEO of 99.co called the decision a “victory for the internet” and hinted that PropertyGuru was a large corporation bullying a small upstart business.

“We hope that by taking on this battle, we had contributed a little in our own way to provide clarity and precedence, so others may not have to suffer the same fate,” he wrote.

“We are grateful to be part of a movement that is greater than us, that helps us push forward an inch at a time”.

As for PropertyGuru, the company released a statement that also claimed victory, and said the verdict sent a clear message about “fair-play & good business ethics”.

In a statement, Jani Rautiainen, the Executive Director & Co-founder of PropertyGuru Group wrote:

“We started 10 years ago as a home-grown Singaporean startup-up, solving pain points for property seekers and earned their trust. We grew through sheer hard-work, diligence and innovation. We have always welcomed competition as it keeps us sharp and gives the consumer more choice.

“That same consumer needs all companies to act responsibly and not break the rules. We are heartened that the court today endorsed those values,” he said.

Also Read: PropertyGuru has been fighting 99.co over a copyright lawsuit since April 2016

Moving forward, the two startups are locked in a three-way battle — with iProperty being the other — for market share in Indonesia.

The post Sharp rhetoric as Singapore court rules 99.co did not violate PropertyGuru copyright appeared first on e27.