Services & Software

Web publishers settle with Gator

A group of top newspaper publishers reaches a legal settlement with the company over the uninvited display of its Web advertisements atop their site pages.

A group of top newspaper publishers has reached a legal settlement with Gator over the uninvited display of its Web advertisements atop their site pages.

Seven publishers including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Dow Jones reached an agreement on settlement terms with the Internet software company early Tuesday, according to Terence Ross, attorney for the plaintiffs. He said terms of the agreement were made strictly confidential.

"The parties are satisfied with the agreement," Ross said, declining to comment further.

Mid-last year, a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., ordered Gator to temporarily stop displaying pop-up advertising over Web publishers' pages without their permission on the grounds that the ads violated their copyrights and stole revenue from ad sales. That preliminary injunction will be lifted once the final settlement papers are filed sometime next week. The suit was originally filed in June 2002.

Gator is not out of the swamp yet. The company still faces seven lawsuits on grounds of copyright infringement, including those brought by catalog retailer L.L. Bean and hotel chain Extended Stay America. Janet Cullum, an attorney for Redwood City, Calif.-based Gator, could not comment on the cases, but she said the company recently filed a motion with the Washington-based Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate the cases.

Intellectual property suits are rarely unified by this congressional panel, attorneys say, but exceptions include the multiple charges against the former highflier, music-swapping site Napster. The motion is expected to be heard in March, Cullum said.

Gator delivers pop-up and pop-under ads to millions of people who presumably agree to receive ads in exchange for use of its online wallet software, which keeps track of passwords and shopping data for multiple sites. Gator says it has about 25 million active users of the software, with about 500 advertisers targeting messages to those people, often at times when they're visiting rival sites.

Gator's practices and those of its advertisers have drawn much controversy in Internet publishing and e-commerce circles, sparking numerous lawsuits, including those from shipping company United Parcel Service.

The Gator online advertising network recently started testing a new paid search product that lets rivals poach on each other's territory. The product, called Search Scout, triggers a pop-under window when Gator members search on a site such as Google or Yahoo. The window lists search results tied to keywords purchased through competing search services.