Lawsuit over Gartner 'Magic Quadrant' should (poof!) disappear

Judge will hear motion to dismiss Friday -- and will have had his fill before lunchtime

This won't be a long post so I'm going to make you wait until the end before revealing the sum of money this plaintiff wants to extract from Gartner because Gartner had the audacity to relegate its software to "niche player" status in the firm's legendary "Magic Quadrant."  

On Friday, a judge in San Jose will hear arguments regarding Gartner's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed in May by ZL Technologies that seeks to not only eviscerate the Magic Quadrant but also punish Gartner severely for ever having foisted it upon the IT world. (That some of you are cheering grants ZL's case not a scintilla of validity, but point taken.)

Having spent too much of my day reading four separate documents filed in the case, allow me to simplify the arguments:

San Jose-based ZL Technologies accuses Gartner of "defamation, trade libel, false advertising, unfair competition, and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage."

All of these purported wrongs allegedly arose from the decision of Gartner analyst Carolyn DiCenzo to place ZL's e-mail archiving software in the "niche" corner of the Magic Quadrant -- along with other niche players (in this market) such as IBM, HP and EMC -- instead of in the "market leaders" quadrant with the likes of market leader Symantec. ZL takes wounded exception to the fact that Gartner considers such squishy criteria as vision and marketing ability when determining quadrant placement.

You can read the original complaint here.

Gartner responds that it is known far and wide among IT professionals as a purveyor of expert opinion -- "views" is a word it emphasizes to the court -- that are designed to facilitate technology purchasing decisions. Gartner's reports -- including the Magic Quadrants -- amount to nothing more or less than protected free speech, the company argues here.

In a follow-up filing, ZL sputters and spews that Gartner cannot be allowed to claim First Amendment protections because ... well, well ... I'm sorry, but it doesn't even warrant a summarization. You can read it here.

Gartner's response to that response demonstrates why lawyers get paid more than trade-press pundits, in that the company's attorneys manage to maintain their composure and point out yet one more time that ZL isn't really complaining about anything more than Gartner's judgment. And, whatever one may think of Gartner's judgment -- in this case, or any other -- it isn't actionable as long as First Amendment law rules. You can read that reply here.

OK, so how much does ZL want for having been so maligned and mistreated?

Try $132 million, "and" -- emphasis mine -- "that such damages be trebled."

They want $396 million? ... That's not a judgment request, it's an exit strategy.

But, wait, there's more. ZL wants the judge to order Gartner to fund an advertising campaign to "correct any misperceptions resulting from Gartner's unlawful acts," and "disgorge all profits" derived from said acts. They want attorneys' fees, too, naturally.

Done? Oh, not by a long-shot: ZL wants the court to impose "punitive damages ... in the amount of $1,300,000,000."

Sell it to the judge; he'll be the guy in the robe tapping his watch.

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