Gator Fires Back at Pop-Up Lawsuit

Never one to receive a challenge quietly, the controversial Gator Corporation attacked Dow Jones & Co. , The New York Times Co. and other major online publishers that filed a suit against it earlier this week, threatening to file its own counter suit.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based firm came under fire last year for selling pop-up ads in its browser-add on — ads that appear unauthorized on Web publishers’ sites. Despite attempts at reconciliation, that months-long debate reached a head earlier this week with a number of Web publishers filing suit in a U.S. court in Virginia, seeking remuneration in the form of all of Gator’s profits.

Now, the firm says it is considering a countersuit for unspecified claims and damages. Last year, the company sued the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a New York-based consortium of online ad sellers, for making “unjust claims” in the media about Gator’s legality. The company tabled the suit earlier this year in an apparently short-lived period of détente with Web publishers.

In the meantime, Gator Chief Executive Jeff McFadden criticized the publishers’ suit, suggesting that it amounted to a feeble attempt at thwarting a rival ad seller, which serves the ads of about 400 marketers to roughly 22 million users.

“These plaintiffs either haven’t done their homework, or more likely are just trying to create a ‘bump in the road’ for Gator as a competitor for online advertising dollars,” he said. “They want to slow the momentum of a competitor with a more effective advertising product that’s winning more business by the day … a strong and thriving competitor isn’t illegal.”

McFadden added that at least one of the media companies suing Gator had actually used its services in the past.

“One of the largest plaintiffs actually hired Gator to deliver the majority of the handful of ads displayed to consumers viewing the plaintiffs’ Web sites over the past several quarters,” he said. The site “found it compelling to pay Gator to display its advertising to consumers while viewing WallStreetJournal.com, WashingtonPost.com, USAToday.com, and many other Web sites operated by most of the other plaintiffs.” He did not elaborate.

McFadden added that fewer than “one third of one percent of our ads” appear when consumers are viewing the plaintiffs’ sites.

Although the plaintiffs charged Gator with actively targeting the users of specific highly trafficked sites with pop-ups, McFadden characterized the suit as prohibitive to any type of window appearing while consumers surf the Internet.

“This flies in the face of the very nature of the Windows operating system, and is ridiculous,” he said.

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