Lawsuit over Magic Quadrant raises questions

I say one person's opinion can't stand up to in-house testing.

Many emails have been sent to me about the lawsuit brought forward by ZL Technologies against Gar-ner. The San Jose-based ZL Technologies accuses Gar-ner of "defamation, trade libel, false advertising, unfair competition, and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage." (I won't use the company's full name in my blog anymore since the firm contacted me last summer.)

The following statement was made by Gar-ner, according to court documents.

"ZL premises its argument that Gartner’s Magic Quadrant reports contain actionable assertions of fact upon the entirely unfounded—and counterfactual —notion that the Magic Quadrant reports “clearly stated” that ZL and its products were inferior. See Opposition at 15. As the Magic Quadrant reports reflect, the statements at issue cannot be reasonably interpreted as express or implied assertions of objective fact. See Partington v. Bugliosi, 56 F.3d 1147 (9th Cir. 1995).

"It is undisputed that an expression of pure opinion is protected by the First Amendment and may not form the basis for a civil law suit. See Partington, 56 F.3d at 1153. A pure opinion is one that does not imply facts capable of being proved true or false. Id. at 1153 n.10. To determine whether a statement constitutes non-actionable opinion rather than an implied assertion of objective fact, the Ninth Circuit applies a three-part analysis considering (1) whether the general tenor of the entire work negates the impression that the defendant was asserting an objective fact, (2) whether the specific content and context of the statements, including the use of figurative or hyperbolic language, negate the impression of an assertion of fact, and (3) whether the statement in question is susceptible of being proved true or false. Id. at 1153-60; see also Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2005) (same). Applying each somewhat overlapping element of this analysis to the Magic Quadrant reports demonstrates that Gartner’s alleged statements are non-actionable opinion."

So Gar-ner is standing behind the first amendment, stating that what they produce is pure opinion and does not imply facts capable of being true of false. But they then go on to say the following, also in the court documents:

"The reader of a Gartner Magic Quadrant report could not mistake it for a compendium of objective fact or quantifiable test results. From the title page—which identifies the report as a “Magic Quadrant” and notes the contents to be opinion1—through to the end, it is evident from both tenor and substance that the Magic Quadrant is not the test-driven “Consumer Reports”-style product review the plaintiff suggests. As the plaintiff highlighted in its Complaint, the Magic Quadrant reports “do not involve a single minute of independent testing of . . . products.”

I'm wondering if this lawsuit, given what the analyst company says, is enough to sink the company's reputation with users and vendors. In my experience, the company and its MQ have been taking hits from users and vendors in the last few years. If its reports are really just one person's viewpoint do those reports really provide that much insight on which products to purchase? The same problems goes for any analyst report based on opinion.

Should customers allow one person's viewpoint to influence a buying decision if that person does no testing whatsoever?

Should vendors only offer data to research firms that do testing?

I have other questions, too, like how did one company did get so powerful when they do no testing?

To me, this brings the so-called analyst report into a new light. So where do we go from here? What I say, and have said all along to customers: do testing in-house in your network yourself. Do not rely on any company to tell you which product you should or should not consider buying. Even just reading a report based on one person's opinion, not testing, could influence you.

I'll bet this court case will get tossed out but the questions it raises are good ones. I'm not the only one pondering such thoughts. Here are some links to other blog posts on the subject:

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