RISMEDIA, June 5, 2007—On May 14, 2007, we reported on the allegations of a cover-up in the mapping patent case Real Estate Alliance Ltd (REAL) v. Diane Sarkisian et al. in Pennsylvania. In that case, the patent owner charged an industry agent with infringing on two patents that cover the location of available real estate properties on zoomable maps.
On May 9, 2007 the plaintiff filed a motion to compel and sanction the defendant for perjury in attempting to cover up her use of the patented mapping technology in her marketing of properties. We also reported that the defendant had a two week deadline to respond to these charges.
The defense vigorously denied the perjury allegations in a response and supplemental filing later submitted to the court during the week of May 29th. Below is a more detailed look at this motion and the recent response.
According to documents filed by the plaintiff, the alleged perjury centers on the very heart of the factual substance of this case. In its motion, the plaintiff points to evidence of the Web site www.DianeSarkisian.net, which according to official domain registration records, is owned and controlled by Sarkisian. A review of the site submitted by the plaintiff demonstrated a click-by-click walk through that allows users to see real estate listings via “Smart Map” technology (from WhereToLive.com.) Along with Sarikisian’s picture and contact information, her real estate listings (and all others in the TREND MLS) appear plotted on the interactive zoomable maps.
In supporting the motion, REAL cites its original discovery requests in January 2006, which mandated identification of any and all Web sites or marketing activities utilized by, or known to the defendant that employ zoomable maps in the location of real estate properties. According to the plaintiff, no mention of DianeSarkisian.net was provided in the defendant’s sworn answers. Documents submitted by the defense appear to corroborate this fact.
According to court documents, REAL quotes the sworn deposition of Sarkisian taken in March 2006, in which the defendant, in response to direct questions, claims only to control and own the site DianeSarkisian.com. When asked, “Are there any other Web sites where you advertise yourself and your properties,” she responded, “I don’t remember.” When asked, “Do you have any contractual relationships with any other organizations that would allow you to advertise in that way,” she said, “Not that I can remember.” According to reports, the plaintiff cited more than 60 similar lapses during the deposition as further evidence of Sarkisian’s evasiveness and intent to conceal.
The defense asserts that Sarkisian’s responses during her sworn deposition do not rise to the level of perjury. The defense submitted documents with its response that showed that Sarkisian signed permission to allow for the modification of registrar information for this Web site to WheretoLive.com on Sept. 8, 2005. This action occurred nearly two months after the filing of this lawsuit, and only six months prior to her sworn deposition where she claimed multiple times to have no recollection about the site.
There was no direct mention or reference to www.dianesarkisian.net by the defense in their original court ordered response to discovery, or during the subsequent sworn deposition, according to documents. According to the filings, the defense points to various references relating to this Web site that occurred contextually through other materials submitted by the defense during discovery. The defense contends that this evidence establishes there was no intent to conceal.
The federal penalty for perjury provides for a prison sentence of up to 5 years. The plaintiff is also seeking sanctions against the counsel for its role in the ongoing cover-up along with the dismissal of their entire summary judgment motion. If the judge rules that the defendant perjured herself, or that her attorneys were involved, he could then rule the case “exceptional,” paving the way to awarding triple damages and attorney fees.
A subsequent Class Action motion filed in Feb. 2007 is still pending.
According to court records, more than 200 licenses have already been requested from REAL and issued to agents and brokers doing business in the United States to use zoomable maps. Through licensing distribution, a representative for the patent holder claims that more than 800 additional license applications have been set into motion in the past 20 days.