Google Inc. lost its bid to halt a lawsuit by Hong Kong businessman Albert Yeung, who claimed he was defamed because the search engine’s auto-complete function linked him to the city’s criminal underworld.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., argued that the Hong Kong court had no jurisdiction to hear the case. Yeung, the chairman of closely held Emperor Group, sued the search provider to remove auto-complete suggestions including “triad” and the names of Hong Kong criminal gangs. He is seeking an unspecified amount in compensation.
Yeung is a well-known businessman in Hong Kong and Google’s potential payout for hurting his reputation could be substantial if he wins at trial, Deputy High Court Judge Marlene Ng wrote in an Aug. 5 ruling. Emperor has investments in hotels and financial services.
“There is a good arguable case that Google Inc. is the publisher of the words and liable for their publication,” Ng said. “Google Inc. is capable of censoring material.”
Robin Moroney, a Singapore-based spokesman for Google, declined to comment on the ruling.
“At this stage, we have passed the case into the good hands of our lawyers,” Alice Chek, a spokeswoman for Emperor Group said in an e-mail reply to questions.
The case is Dr Yeung, Sau Shing Albert v Google Inc. 1383/2012. Hong Kong Court of First Instance.