Two property listings portals battle over alleged copyright infringement

Darius Cheng (left), founder of 99.co and Jani Rautiainen, Co-Founder of PropertyGuru.com at the Supreme Court.
Darius Cheng (left), founder of 99.co and Jani Rautiainen, Co-Founder of PropertyGuru.com at the Supreme Court.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - The biggest property listings portal here has sued its rival over alleged copyright infringement, accusing the latter of reproducing content from its website without permission.

Wednesday marked the start of a six-day trial between PropertyGuru and 99.co, which is being watched for its implication on who owns the copyright of information uploaded onto online platforms.

At issue is the use of a third-party digital app called Xpressor, which lets property agents post listings across multiple portals - resulting in several listings on 99.co bearing PropertyGuru's watermark.

PropertyGuru, which was co-founded here in 2008 by Finn Jani Rautiainen and Briton Steve Melhuish and claims today to have the business of half the some 28,000 licensed agents in Singapore, has filed three claims against 99.co.

The latter, a relative newcomer, was set up in 2014 by entrepreneur Darius Cheung.

First, PropertyGuru alleges that 99.co had breached a previous settlement agreement made in September 2015 by "substiantially reproduc(ing) and continu(ing) to reproduce" content from its website.

It is also accusing 99.co of infringing its copyright by reproducing photographs bearing the PropertyGuru watermark on the latter's website.

The final claim is that 99.co had caused property agents to breach PropertyGuru's rules and guidelines about content on its website, by encouraging them to sign up with Xpressor to copy their listings from PropertyGuru onto 99.co's website.

99.co has denied the claims, and has filed a counterclaim against PropertyGuru for "groundless threats" of copyright infringement.

99.co argues that agents were "exercising their own copyright" in using Xpressor to post listings across multiple websites.

It is also saying that it has not reproduced PropertyGuru's photographs; rather, agents themselves have done so by using Xpressor.

On Wednesday morning, PropertyGuru managing director Jani Rautianinen took the stand and was cross-examined by 99.co's lawyer Koh Chia Ling.

Mr Koh sought to establish that the act of resizing or putting a watermark on an agent's photograph does not give PropertyGuru copyright over the new image.

But Mr Rautianinen disagreed.

The trial continues in the afternoon.