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Judge favors Google in 'frivolous' suit

A federal judge has ordered a parenting Web site to compensate Google for certain legal fees resulting from a lawsuit that accused the search giant of discriminating in its search rankings.

In a written order dated Friday, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose sided with Google in two of its three arguments that KinderStart, a directory and search engine focused on parenting information, should face monetary sanctions on the grounds that its allegations were "frivolous." The court plans to determine the amount of the fees after receiving a report from Google identifying its costs.

KinderStart after it fell to a "zero" ranking in the company's search index. It argued Google was behaving anticompetitively by skewing its search results to maintain its search industry dominance, reserved its top search placements for those who paid premium fees, and discriminated against sites for religious and political reasons.

On the question of whether Google had skewed its search results and based top placements on compensation, Fogel concluded KinderStart's allegations warranted sanctions because "they are factually baseless and because (KinderStart attorney Gregory) Yu failed to perform an adequate investigation before filing them."

As for the allegations of religious and political discrimination, Fogel said KinderStart never appeared to argue its own site suffered such treatment, adding, "Yu had a professional responsibility to refrain from filing such allegations if he did not have appropriate supporting evidence."

Fogel dismissed KinderStart's allegations for a first time last summer but allowed the company to revise its complaint and present a new set of oral arguments during the fall.

Google senior litigation counsel Hilary Ware praised the latest ruling. "We always felt these claims were unjustified, because courts have consistently rejected complaints over search engine rankings," she said in a statement.

Yu declined to comment on the case's outcome or KinderStart's next steps except to say, "All options are being evaluated at this time."