A judge has dismissed a request from France-based ad tech company Criteo to have a preliminary injunction served against a rival firm it claimed was operating a “counterfeit click fraud” scheme that led to “substantial injury and damage” to its business and reputation.
Criteo filed its lawsuit against US-based firm SteelHouse in June. The suit claimed Criteo had lost business because SteelHouse used a method to falsely take credit for the visits to retailers’ web pages. Many retailers measure the performance of their ad tech vendors by using a method called “last click attribution,” which gives credit to whichever computer served the last ad a user clicked on before landing on their websites.
What followed was an ugly back-and-forth, with SteelHouse filing counterclaims in July alleging Criteo “regularly injects adware” into users’ personal computers and buys inventory from “non-reputable sources” in order to drive up its click numbers.
Criteo followed up in August by denying the counterclaims and persuading five former SteelHouse clients to sign declarations supporting its allegations. In September, SteelHouse hit back with further counterclaims, this time alleging an analysis of Criteo’s web logs showed behaviour “indicative of adware, bots, click farms, or other code” intended to artificially inflate its click-count numbers.
But on Wednesday, a California judge denied Criteo’s request for an injunction to be served against SteelHouse to prevent it running its alleged “counterfeit click fraud scheme,” ruling that the matter could be settled outside court without a hearing.
The court found Criteo’s lawsuit raised “serious questions” about the way SteelHouse was operating. However, it ruled Criteo had not proved that “irreparable and immediate harm” would be likely if an injunction was not served.
The judge stated (you can view the court document in full below): “The court does not believe the loss of customers for Criteo constitutes the type of irreparable harm, incapable of measurement, needed to justify the extraordinary relief of a preliminary injunction.”
A SteelHouse spokesperson told Business Insider: “SteelHouse is pleased with the court ruling in our favour. It validates the importance of transparency in advertising.”
A Criteo spokesperson sent Business Insider this statement:
“On Thursday 27th October, the Court decided against granting the preliminary injunction Criteo requested in its lawsuit against SteelHouse. Criteo filed this lawsuit to ensure transparency and accuracy around the metrics used to attribute sales to online marketers. While the Court’s decision held that Criteo’s exhibits and declarations, including those of SteelHouse’s former clients, raised ‘serious questions’ regarding SteelHouse’s conduct, the court simply decided that the harm caused by SteelHouse could be satisfied by monetary damages, making preliminary injunctive relief unnecessary.”
The Criteo vs. SteelHouse case is not yet over, however. Criteo’s motion to dismiss SteelHouse’s counterclaims is still outstanding, so it could still be possible that the case ends up being heard in court.
The full In Chambers Minute Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction:
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