NAR Joins Move Lawsuit Against Zillow, Samuelson

March 18, 2014® operator Move Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Zillow and former® president Errol Samuelson, who unexpectedly defected to Zillow on March 5. Move, who is joined in the lawsuit by the National Association of REALTORS® and other subsidiaries such as the REALTORS® Information Network Inc., allege in the complaint that Samuelson’s departure caused a breach of contract, fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets. 

No money from NAR members' dues is being used to pay for the lawsuit; Move is paying the costs of litigation.

"At Move, we take our trade secrets and intellectual property extremely seriously as a valuable asset in our competitive position in the marketplace," Move CEO Steve Berkowitz says in a statement. "We take action in cases in which we believe our trade secrets have been compromised. We have raised this matter for the courts and believe that the matter will be resolved judiciously."

Samuelson began serving as®’s president in 2007, among other internal roles that put him in close contact with the company’s partners and overall marketing strategy. Zillow is one of®'s main competitors.

"Mr. Samuelson's former roles at Move gave him access to and knowledge of essentially all of Move's trade secrets across all of its business lines, whether those secrets dealt with finance, technology, data content, strategy, marketing, or another aspect of the business," the complaint says. "The secrets known to Mr. Samuelson would inevitably be useful to him and Zillow."

On Monday, Zillow announced that it had poached another® higher-up: Curt Beardsley, whom Move had promoted to executive vice president in the wake of Samuelson's departure.

In its own statement, NAR says that despite the dust-up,® will remain a leader in the online real estate industry.

"One of®’s greatest assets is its strong ties to Realtors® and the real estate industry, and its competitors know that," the statement reads. "Relative newcomers to the online real estate space have underestimated the value Realtors® bring to the real estate transaction, and they are looking to® for answers.® remains committed to working with and supporting Realtors® and the home buyers and sellers who rely on them to provide the most accurate, up-to-date real estate data and insights, as we continue to shape the future of online real estate."

Samuelson joined Zillow in the newly created role of chief industry development officer. In this role, he is to build relationships with real estate brokers, franchisors, MLSs, and trade associations as well as oversee Zillow’s business-to-business product solutions. 

The complaint was filed Monday in the Superior Court of the State of Washington. Zillow has yet to comment publicly on the lawsuit.

—By REALTOR® Magazine