The argument which REA Group has presented at the Federal Court has been that, realestate1.com.au has presumably been misleading and deceptive, but there is also an undercurrent of alleged data stealing and computer hacking as well. Before the two companies went to the Federal Court, in 2010, REA Group stated that an investigation of realestate1.com.au concluded that the website possessed files matching those on realestate.com.au and therefore insisted the company had stolen data from its website. Consequently these accusations were not upheld and had to be dropped, and did not form part of REA’s Federal Court action.
Apparently the initial clash between the two companies dates back to 2007, when Melbourne-based property agents Geoff and Julie Luff registered the trademark realestate1 and started advertising properties on domains realestate1com.au and realcommercial1.com.au.
Now REA Group wishes for realestate1.com.au to cancel its domain name, claiming it to be too similar to its property portal’s domain name, and therefore it causes for customer confusion, who may believe the two sites are related due to the similar names.
The Luffs on the other hand, state that REA Group does not own a trademark for the domain name www.realestate.com.au and that their business is significantly different from REA’s website.
The Luffs filed a simultaneous court action in the Magistrates Court of Victoria, stating their site has suffered an intrusion in July 2010. Around the same time REA made the accusations of data stealing, realestate1.com.au was hacked by a program called C99 Madshell.
According to an affidavit filed in the Victorian Magistrates Court by the Luffs’ IT manager, Ryan McAvoy, the tool created a back door into realestate1.com.au’s systems allowing the hacker to access and download internal files.
The IP address used by the hacker was identified, and the Luffs took action against internet service provider Bluefire Corporation in an attempt to have Bluefire reveal the owner of the IP address, but the legal attempt to find the hacker was unsuccessful.
The copyright case continues and the judgment is expected within months.