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Google ducks lawsuit over search rankings

Google has dodged a lawsuit filed by a California man who claimed his Web site rankings precipitously and unfairly dropped.

Mark Roberts, who ran two protein drink sites (including, sued the search engine for breach of contract (click for PDF). He represented himself in court and did not hire an attorney.

But Roberts backed down after Google's attorneys threatened to file a "SLAPP" motion against him. California has a strong SLAPP law, which is designed to discourage frivolous lawsuits and permits successful defendants to seek attorneys' fees.

Roberts had claimed that Google was negligent and breached its contract--making the unusual claim that the company's Web site-submission service constituted a binding contract.

Law professor Eric Goldman wrote that even though this lawsuit came to a premature end, the question of legal liability over search rankings remains an open one and more lawsuits could follow.