Court hands adblock startup Eyeo victory against Axel Springer

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court said on Tuesday that local software firm Eyeo’s Adblock Plus browser extension does not breach laws on competition, copyright or market dominance, rejecting arguments brought by Axel Springer, the publisher of Bild, Europe’s biggest daily newspaper.

Cologne-based Eyeo’s Adblock Plus serves the fast-growing market for software to block Internet advertising that many users find intrusive or interferes with their experience of websites.

More than 30 percent of Germans online use such software, many more than the 5 percent of Internet users globally in 2014, according to Dublin-based analytics and advisory firm PageFair, which develops “ad blocker-friendly” advertising.

The ruling is the third this year. In May a Munich court ruled in favor of the start-up in a case brought by ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL Group.

That was only weeks after the publisher of German newspapers Handelsblatt and Die Zeit lost its case in a Hamburg court.

Adblock Plus acts like a firewall between a web browser and advertising servers.

The software is mostly installed by end users on their desktop computer or laptop and blocks ads on websites including Facebook as well as video ads on Youtube.

Apple Inc is for the first time letting users install the software on iPhones.

But advertisers can avoid being blocked by Eyeo by asking to be added to a so-called “white list” in return for a fee. Requests are vetted by a panel of tens of thousands of Eyeo users before being granted.

Axel Springer said it would appeal against the ruling.

Earlier on Tuesday, Axel Springer announced it would buy news website Business Insider for $343 million, which depends heavily on online advertising.

Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Klaus Lauer; Editing by Greg Mahlich