Out of curiosity about a fellow panelist at the CB event, I did a google search on Jorritt Van der Muelen, it brought back a few blasts from the past… Anyone else remember when Rob McGarty (pre-Redfin days) was talking about Zillow’s application to patent an auction marketplace around real estate listings? Well, the Google Search on Jorritt turned up the patent application from the Zillow team for the auctioning of real estate listings.
I’m not experienced in reading patent applications, but here is what I was able to gleam:
- Lots of big players from the Zillow team are on the patent. They include Spencer Rascoff (CFO), Scott Bekemeyer (now with ZipRealty), Lloyd Frink (President), Kristin Acker (VP Product & Design), Jorritt Van der Muelen (VP Partner Relations), and Chloe Harford (Dir Strategic Planning).
- They claim their invention does 23 novel things.
- My reading of the patent reviewer’s response (download it here) is that he thinks all but 3 of the claims are too obvious to patent. The only thing that the patent reviewer finds worthy is their idea that they could use a phone to call in auction bids, which appears to be pretty tangential to their idea.
Similar to the patent reviewer, I don’t find the process described in the patent application to be very interesting. It might help if I had access to the diagrams and figures described, but that is neither here nor there…What makes the patent interesting is that it shows that very early on the team put quite a bit of thought into how Zillow could play a central role in the real estate transaction.
I’m included to think that Zillow has probably dropped this idea completely in order to retain the support of real estate professionals (the bulk of their potential advertisers). However, that is just speculation. It’s also conceivable that Zillow may be distracting us with the rumors of a mortgage product so that they can continue to amass listings from brokerages before they unleash an auction tool that will allow consumers to buy and sell properties directly from their website.