Gator Hit With Another Lawsuit

The long list of plaintiffs suing Gator just got longer.

Earlier this week, hotel-chain operator Six Continents filed suit against the ad-supported software maker, charging it with trademark and copyright infringement, unfair business practices, and misleading visitors to its hotel Web sites. Six Continents’ hotel brands include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Intercontinental.

Six Continents’ suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, asks for a court order that Gator cease what it called a “parasitic advertising scheme” and pay damages for infringement.

The hotel operator joins a similar suit filed last month by UPS, which charged Gator with serving pop-up advertisements of competitors that covered its Web site. A group of publishers — including The Washington Post Co., The New York Times Co, and The Gannett Co. — have also filed suit against Gator.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Gator provides free software, such as its digital wallet eWallet, which also comes with a program called Offer Companion that serves pop-up ads on users’ computers based on their online activity. Often, the ads are for competitors of the site users visit.

Six Continents charges that visitors to the sites of a number of its hotel chains are greeted with pop-up ads served by Offer Companion.

“Gator’s pop-up advertising scheme is designed to lure and divert Internet users from the Web sites they intend to visit to the Web sites owned by Gator’s advertising clients,” the lawsuit charges.

Like the other suits, Six Continents’ lawsuit says “a substantial number” of Gator’s 25 million users do not know they have downloaded Offer Companion, which often comes as part of popular programs such as AudioGalaxy.

According to the filing, Offer Companion is “inherently deceptive and misleads users into believing falsely that some or all the pop-up advertisements supplied by Gator are in actuality advertisements authorized by, approved by, or originated from plaintiffs.”

In a statement, Gator’s chief executive, Jeff McFadden, said the company would fight the suit.

“Six Continents PLC is attempting to undermine consumers’ rights to decide for themselves what is displayed on their own computer screens, and what software is on their own computers,” said Jeff McFadden, Gator’s chief executive. “Our position hasn’t changed a bit: we will vigorously defend the rights of our 25 million consumers — in court where necessary — to control their own computers.”

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