Eye-Popping Jury Award May Pose Ramifications for Consumers – But Will the Public Be Allowed Access to the Details of the Case?

Back in March, a jury of 12 Texans delivered an eye-popping $700 million award in a case that is shaping up to be one of the largest intellectual property lawsuits this year. But based on signals from both parties, it is unlikely this case will wrap up anytime soon.

Post-trial motions are currently underway, including a motion by HouseCanary to seal key aspects of the case. If this motion is granted, the sealing would keep the public in the dark about the facts that led to an outcome that is, by any measure, remarkable.

The case centers on an arcane intellectual property dispute between HouseCanary, a real-estate analytics company, and Title Source, a title insurance, property valuations and settlement services provider that renamed itself Amrock. The jury agreed with HouseCanary’s contention that Amrock violated a software licensing agreement it had with HouseCanary and ordered Amrock to pay $706 million for “misappropriating trade secrets.”

But while the case involve arcane issues, it has repercussions that are anything but obscure. The money awarded – the biggest by far in Texas this year – could have a significant impact on consumers given the huge role that Amrock plays in the real estate industry.

Indeed, consumers may end up shouldering the burden in the form of higher fees and reduced access, at a time when America’s housing market is bouncing back from the collapse that hit low-income communities of color particularly hard.

Amrock strongly denies the claims and contends that nothing produced in trial offers any supporting evidence. In fact, HouseCanary’s own expert testified that Amrock’s technology did not contain any of HouseCanary’s intellectual property.

Even as both sides debate the merits of the case, just about everyone involved in it agrees that the jury award is staggering. In fact, a HouseCanary attorney even went as far as quipping that it will likely be the largest jury award involving a trade-secret case in 2018.

Furthermore, how the damages were calculated has also garnered significant interest. The total damages are more than 10 times the amount of capital that HouseCanary has raised since its inception. The discrepancy in the jury award and the company’s capital prompted  Amrock CEO Jeff Eisenshtadt’s assertion that the damages methodology was not “based in fact.”

After post-trial motions, the case will undoubtedly head to an appellate court. Amrock has already announced its intention to appeal the jury verdict, saying it will “explore all avenues to ensure justice and sanity are applied to the facts of this case.” Eisenshtadt added, “The jury’s decision defies logic.”

If the judge grants appropriate disclosure by denying HouseCanary’s motion to seal, the public will gain a better understanding of what qualified the company’s data as trade secrets, and how Amrock supposedly committed damages to the tune of $706 million. Denying the  motion to seal will also undergird the crucial spirit of transparency and the importance of public knowledge in such impactful cases.

In the interest of transparency, let’s hope the judge does the right thing and allows the public to review the details of a case that potentially has widespread ramifications.