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UPS sues Gator for wrongful delivery

Shipping company UPS files suit against Gator, charging the online software provider with delivering unauthorized pop-up ads to visitors of its Web site.

Yet another company is seeking to defang Gator, the online advertising start-up whose pop-ups let businesses pitch potential customers visiting rival Web sites.

Shipping company UPS filed a lawsuit last week against Gator in the U.S. District Court of Atlanta, charging the online software provider with delivering unauthorized ads to visitors to its Web site. Gator's software, which PC users install to manage passwords, might display a Federal Express ad to people viewing UPS.com, for example.

"The problem lies in that this software causes third-party ads to pop up on our Web site, so if you visit UPS.com, an ad featuring our competitors would come up, and that's unauthorized," said UPS spokeswoman Vanessa Smith.

UPS is seeking a preliminary injunction against Redwood City, Calif.-based Gator to cease its practices. The two companies are currently in discussions.

The mammoth shipping company is the latest Web site operator to feel bitten by Gator and take action. In June, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Dow Jones News Service and seven other publishers filed a suit against Gator alleging the company's ads violate their copyrights and steal revenue. A federal judge ruled a month later that Gator must temporarily stop displaying pop-up ads over Web publishers' pages without their permission.

Gator develops software that manages passwords and form-filling for more than 10 million Web surfers who often download the application through other popular file-sharing programs. Bundled in Gator's software is a program called OfferCompanion, which monitors Web surfing behavior and delivers targeted pop-up ads to viewers. For example, a Web surfer may see an advertisement for Ford Motor--delivered by Gator--while visiting Toyota.com. Gator has been selling such advertising for more than a year and has accumulated several top-tier advertisers.

"In regards to Gator's pop-up ads, we did not authorize the use of our name and our Web site to be part of that strategy," Smith said.

Gator could not be immediately reached for comment. Gator has contended in the past that its advertisements are legal because people who download its software have given permission to the company to send them third-party promotions.