Online newspapers settle lawsuit with Gator ad service

A lawsuit filed last July by seven major news organizations to stop pop-up online advertising company The Gator from displaying its ads on their Web sites has been settled, but the outcome has been sealed by the court.

That means that there will be no public announcement of whether the result favored Gator or the seven news organizations.

The lawsuit alleged that Gator piggybacked off their Web sites by placing pop-up ads that compete with the advertising that the sites sell. The plaintiffs were The Washington Post, Dow Jones & Co., Tribune Interactive, The New York Times, Knight Ridder, Advance Publications and Gannett. The publishers said they have 15 Web sites among them that draw millions of viewers monthly.

Gator attorney Janet Cullum Monday confirmed that a settlement was reached last week, but added that all details are to remain confidential under an agreement by the parties. Cullum had no additional comment on the settlement.

The suit alleged that Gator displays ads that directly compete with services and products offered by the plaintiff's Web sites. For instance, the suit says Gator displayed an ad for travel Web site Travelocity.com on a plaintiff-owned Web site -- Concierge.com -- that offered discount travel deals similar to those promoted by Travelocity.com Inc.

Gator CEO and president Jeff McFadden couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Gator's software and others like it often come bundled with other applications that users download, such as file-sharing software or media players. The software can then track users' surfing habits and display content, such as ads, that most users are unaware have no connection with the site they viewed.

A similar lawsuit was filed in November by the Six Continents Hotels and Inter-Continental Hotels chains, which also alleged that Gator illegally added its pop-up ads to their Web sites, leading to confusion for customers.

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