99.co chief says app it helped develop could be used to copy listings from rival PropertyGuru

Darius Cheng, founder of 99.co, returning to the Supreme Court after lunch break on Sept 20, 2017.
Darius Cheng, founder of 99.co, returning to the Supreme Court after lunch break on Sept 20, 2017.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Day 3 of a civil suit between plaintiff PropertyGuru and its property listing website rival, 99.co, focused on the link between third-party app Xpressor and 99.co.

During cross-examination by PropertyGuru's lawyer Sathinathan Karuppiah, which lasted more than two hours, 99.co's chief executive Darius Cheung agreed that the Xpressor platform could be used to access PropertyGuru's website, copy its listings and post them on 99.co's website.

However, "(this) functionality was never on our website", Mr Cheung said on Friday (Sept 22).

He added that he has no knowledge of the technical process behind how listings are copied from one portal to another through Xpressor.

Mr Cheung said he is also not aware of the steps agents take to do so, even though he agreed with Mr Sathinathan that 99.co had helped to develop and maintain the app, in partnership with Xpressor's parent company, Media Publishing Group.

The entrepreneur, who founded 99.co in 2014, also said he did not know whether the servers mentioned in the app belongs to the parent company of the app, or to 99.co.

The case is being closely watched as it may have implications on who owns the copyright of content uploaded onto online platforms.

Singapore's biggest property listings portal PropertyGuru is alleging that 99.co had breached a 2015 settlement agreement and infringed its copyright by reproducing photos bearing the PropertyGuru watermark on 99.co's website.

It also claimed that 99.co had encouraged property agents to sign up with Xpressor to copy the agents' listings from PropertyGuru onto 99.co's website, thus breaching PropertyGuru's rules about content on its website.

PropertyGuru was founded here in 2007 and currently has the business of half the 28,000 licensed agents in Singapore.

99.co's lawyer Koh Chia Ling had earlier in the day cross-examined PropertyGuru's product director Jason Gregory, who had produced evidence purporting to show how Mr Cheung had sought to help agents port over their PropertyGuru listings for free.

Mr Koh asked Mr Gregory if his client's supposed offer was due to the impending price hike of most of PropertyGuru's paid subscription packages in August (17).

Quoting a Channel NewsAsia article on August 3 this year, the counsel said this hike had led to some unhappiness among PropertyGuru's subscribers with some even considering a move to other portals.

In response, Mr Gregory said: "To a layperson, the agents seemed a bit disgruntled and were looking for alternatives. But the specific intent of individuals, I cannot comment."

The trial continues on Tuesday.