Belgian company loses lawsuit against Google

A Belgian court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a company that said a feature under development by Google for its search engine offers up password-cracking tools

A Belgian court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a company that said a feature for Google's search engine offers up password-cracking tools and serial numbers to unlock their software.

ServersCheck BVBA, based in Leuven, Belgium, charged that Google's Suggest feature could drive users who were interested in their network monitoring software to pirated versions, said Maarten Van Laere, CEO.

The lawsuit, filed in May 2006, sought to make Google modify Suggest to not offer up piracy-related terms but did not seek financial damages.

Google's Suggest feature shows a drop-down menu of other popular terms related to keywords entered in its search engine. Google uses algorithms to predict related queries. The feature is still under development, and the suggested terms change over time.

When "ServersCheck" was typed in Google's search engine on Friday, Suggest offered terms including "keygen," which refers to a program that can generate a valid product key for a software.

On March 1, the Commercial Court in Leuven, Belgium, dismissed the suit, saying Google can't be found liable for finding Web pages that may be involved in illegal activity based on search terms. The court also rejected an argument the Suggest feature offered a misleading advertisement, since that's not the intended function of Suggest, said Trevor Callaghan, Google's senior product counsel for Europe.

The ruling is "what we expected," Callaghan said. Google does block some offensive words from generating suggestions, but overall is not planning on modifying Suggest. Google hasn't received any other complaints from other companies, Callaghan said.

Van Laere said he will appeal. He estimates that piracy of his company's software, called ServersCheck, costs the company up to Euro 100,000 a week (US$134,000). ServersCheck spent Euro 25,000 on legal fees for the suit, he said.

Google hasn't responded to requests to sit down with ServersCheck about their concerns, Van Laere said.

"We're facing a big issue with software piracy, and I can't imagine that Google is pro-software piracy," he said. "It doesn't have to come to court proceedings."

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