CoStar Group Inc., a provider of commercial real estate information, analytics and marketplaces, is filing a series of lawsuits against eight real estate firms and individuals for systematic theft of the company's services through acts of online piracy and computer hacking via illegal password sharing.
Among the defendants implicated in the data theft lawsuits are two Denver real estate brokerage firms co-owned by Chang Enterprises, a family investment company that includes former tennis champion Michael Chang. The complaint alleges that the two firms, Dunton Commercial and SullivanHayes, were responsible for 2,259 unauthorized log-ins to CoStar's networks over the course of several years.
Additional lawsuits have been filed against Detroit-area based Insite Commercial Group and its principal, Randall Thomas; Dallas-based Chris Chevreaux, d/b/a Chevreaux & Associates and Ben Dyess, d/b/a Ben Dyess & Associates; and Chicago-based Richard Griego, d/b/a Frontera Realty Consultants. Combined, CoStar claims these companies are alleged to have illegally accessed CoStar's services thousands of times.
CoStar has also filed a suit against a Los Angeles-based individual, Andrew Gee, alleging that he engaged in blatant and widespread misuse of CoStar's services in connection with his attempts to launch a competing commercial real estate information service, PropertyDeets.com. Gee was formerly an acquisitions and asset manager with Meridian Property Co. before leaving and starting his own business in 2013.
The company reports it is also filing a ‘John Doe’ lawsuit in New York federal court based on allegations of improper use of its data and photos to populate a competing service called CompStak. In order to move the case forward against named defendants – rather than unknown John Does – CoStar is seeking to compel CompStak's disclosure of the identities of its users that have allegedly violated CoStar's copyrights.
CoStar warns that the defendants in these cases could be ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages if they are found guilty.
For example, in 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland finalized a judgment ordering Alliance Valuation Group, TGC Realty Counselors and Pathfinder Mortgage Corp. to pay CoStar more than $3 million in damages for their roles in unauthorized photograph use. The order brought to a close a lawsuit involving a multi-state, multi-defendant password sharing network that involved companies in California, Texas and Florida.