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Fundamental decision on rating portals: IP/IT team of Philipp Plog wins for Yelp at the BGH (Federal High Court of Justice)

15/01/2020

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Germany

Recommendation platform Yelp may make choices in online evaluations.

Yesterday, the Federal High Court of Justice announced a ruling with a signal effect: Online rating portals like Yelp are allowed to sort user ratings using automated software. The court thus follows the argumentation of Philipp Plog's German IP Enforcement and Litigation Team, which has been advising and representing the client for some time. According to the court, the selection of user ratings based on certain criteria is covered by the freedom of profession and opinion. Evaluated companies would have to principally accept criticism of their services and their public discussion. 
 
The reason for the lawsuit before the Federal Court of Justice was the claim for damages by a fitness studio chain operator who felt that the rating was too poor. The Fieldfisher team relied on the provider's quality-driven approach in the proceedings: To prevent manipulation, Yelp uses automated software that checks, among other things, the quality of contributions, trustworthiness and user activity. By classifying contributions as "recommended" and "not recommended", the provider aims to identify those contributions that best reflect the opinions of Yelp users from the large number of responses.
 
The decision was essential for Yelp and other rating portals. After all, a negative outcome of the proceedings would have put the basis of the business into question. A different ruling by the Munich Higher Regional Court was thus overturned. A large number of similar proceedings have already been brought before courts throughout Germany in recent years. The current BGH ruling strengthens the business model of rating portals overall.
 
Fieldfisher originally worked for the German rating portal Qype. After its takeover by Yelp in October 2013, the US company continued to rely on the firm. The team around Managing Partner Philipp Plog and Partner Stephan Zimprich subsequently represented Yelp in a number of lawsuits before various courts.