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Google ranking lawsuit thrown out of court

A website which sued Google because of a sharp drop in its Google search rankings has lost its case. Google did not behave in an anti-competitive manner, the judge ruled.14 Jul 2006

Kinderstart had claimed that it stopped appearing high up in Google's search rankings and that Google had set its PageRank ranking to zero because it was a competitor. The firm argued that it competed with Google because its website was searchable.

Judge Jeremy Fogel, at the District Court in San Jose California, said that Kinderstart did not prove its case. "The court concludes that Kinderstart has failed to allege any conduct on the part of Google that significantly threatens or harms competition," he wrote.

The judge was charged with deciding whether the case should go to trial and ruled that the complaint did not merit a full trial. Kinderstart's lawyer Gregory Yu said that the company would file a second complaint by a new court date set for the end of September which he said would address Fogel's issues.

The legal team for the company is seeking other companies who are aggrieved about Google's rankings to join Kinderstart in a class action suit.

"Not a single count was dismissed with prejudice by the judge," said a statement from the lawyers. "Now, plaintiffs have the full opportunity to amend all nine counts in the class action complaint."

Kinderstart's case claimed that its traffic dropped by 70% when changes to Google's search system resulted in its ranking falling to zero.

Kinderstart had argued that Google's near total dominance of the internet search market around the world meant that its behaviour amounted to "pervasive monopolistic practices" and that its ranking of the site at zero constituted a denial of the site's free speech rights.

The company sought to force Google to disclose its method for ranking, but the judge previously ruled that it was not likely to get its way. "You can't just file a blanket lawsuit and say, 'We think we're going to find some stuff'," said Fogel in an earlier hearing, according to the IDG News Service.

Google argued in court that its rankings were opinions and therefore protected by the US constitution's first amendment, which protects freedom of speech.

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