Pulte, Lennar, David Weekley Homes, Honeywell, Whirlpool, others named as defendants
MARSHALL, Texas (LAWFUEL) – Attorneys from Houston’s The Clearman Law Firm are announcing a federal lawsuit filed late yesterday on behalf of the owner of HomeBuilderShowroom.com against a group of nationally recognized homebuilders and home products manufacturers. The 72-page petition alleges the defendants committed trade secret theft, fraud, patent infringement and violated antitrust laws and confidentiality agreements in order to build a competing Web-based business.
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall, the owners of HomeBuilderShowroom.com invented the “Builder’s On-Line Assistant” in 1999. The revolutionary service was created as a means of using the Internet to connect homebuilders, manufacturers and homebuyers. The company’s design allowed builders to offer standards and upgrades for homes as well as the opportunity for homebuyers to make their purchasing decisions online using virtual showrooms.
The owner of HomeBuilderShowroom.com – OLA, LLC, a privately held company based in Chicago – applied to patent the processes associated with “Builder’s On-Line Assistant” in January 2000, and received two related patents in 2006 and 2007.
The lawsuit alleges that, prior to securing the patents, OLA reached confidentiality agreements with several of the defendants before providing a demonstration of “Builder’s On-Line Assistant.” Relying on the confidentiality agreements, the petition continues, OLA revealed details about its methods and service after receiving positive responses from several homebuilders and manufacturers.
However, according to the complaint, the defendants declined to purchase the service offered by OLA, and instead formed a new company that began marketing a nearly identical service in 2005 called “Envision.”
The Austin, Texas-based company formed by the homebuilders and home products manufacturers – Builder Homesite Inc. – claims on its Web site that the “Envision” service has increased homebuilders’ profits by $2,000 to $5,000 per home on more than 150,000 homes thus far. The same language is included on the Web site for New Home Technologies Inc., a Builder Homesite subsidiary.
Attorney Scott Clearman, lead counsel for OLA and founder of The Clearman Law Firm, says his client took every precaution to protect its valuable idea only to see it replicated in violation of the company’s patents and agreements.
“The defendants obviously saw the benefit in OLA’s idea, but they apparently didn’t think they needed the company’s permission to use its patents or to honor their confidentiality agreements,” Mr. Clearman says. “It’s hard for me to believe that these huge companies didn’t know what they were doing when they basically copied our client’s process verbatim and collaborated to market it themselves.”
In addition to Mr. Clearman, OLA also is represented by Brian D. Walsh of The Clearman Law Firm and Matthew J.M. Prebeg, Edward W. Goldstein and Holly H. Barnes of Houston’s Goldstein, Faucett & Prebeg.
Notable homebuilders named as defendants in the lawsuit include Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA, Inc. (NYSE: BZH), Newport Beach, Calif.-based Capital Pacific Holdings, Inc., Dallas-based Centex Real Estate Corp., Houston-based Weekley Homes, L.P. d/b/a David Weekley Homes, Los Angeles-based KB Home (NYSE: KBH), Miami-based Lennar Corporation (NYSE: LEN), Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Pulte Homes, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), Irvine, Calif.-based Standard Pacific Corp. (NYSE: SPF) and Horsham, Penn.-based Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE: TOL).
Also named as defendants are home products manufacturers Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Lakeville, Minn.-based Hearth & Home Technologies, Inc., Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON), Kohler, Wisc.-based Kohler Co., Taylor, Mich.-based Masco Corporation (NYSE: MAS), Lewisville, Texas-based Overhead Door Corporation, Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning (NYSE: OC), Greenville, S.C.-based Progress Lighting Inc., Palatine, Ill.-based Square D Company, Maumee, Ohio-based Therma-Tru Corp., Federal Way, Wash.-based Weyerhaeuser Company (NYSE: WY), Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) and York, Penn.-based York International Corporation.
A copy of the lawsuit and more information about The Clearman Law Firm is available at www.clearmanlaw.com.