It happens every couple years. Some vendor is really pissed at their placement in the Magic Quadrant, and they decide to sue Gartner and make it right. Inevitably the suit involves the words pay to play, and the vendor thinks they will be the company to make things right in the world. They will get justice for all those companies relegated to the loser niche quadrant. They will unmask the evil analysts for the shakedown artists they are.

The latest is NetScout, who filed a suit recently claiming all sorts of stuff.

“Gartner is not independent, objective or unbiased,” NetScout claimed in its lawsuit, “and its business model is extortionate by its very nature. Its substantial success is due to the worst kept secret in the IT industry: Gartner has a ‘pay-to-play’ business model that by its design rewards Gartner clients who spend substantial sums on its various services by ranking them favorably in its influential Magic Quadrant research reports and punishes technology companies that choose not to spend substantial sums on Gartner services.”

Of course they are wrong. On a number of fronts. First the pay to play angle. Rich covered that a while back, so go see his arguments. Secondly, the MQ is Gartner’s opinion. An opinion can be biased. It can be wrong. It can be anything. None of those things are illegal.

But maybe NetScout already knows this. What if they know this is a battle they cannot win? Maybe they don’t expect to win a legal verdict. They should be worried about winning deals in the field, and how a poor placement in the MQ impacts that. This legal action might actually be cover for their reps.

Let me explain a bit. When you have to deal with a crappy MQ, you go into spin mode quickly. You have to distribute information to your sales force and partners about why Gartner is wrong. How they missed things and don’t understand the market. It’s a big pain in the butt, and it has sales folks running scared because they know every competitor will be using Gartner and the MQ to put their company into a box.

But what if your sales reps could go to customers, saying they vehemently disagree with Gartner’s findings. So much so that they felt forced to legal action. Would that help? Will it make a difference? The biggest issue is generally getting your sales force to tell a consistent message, so having everyone talk about the suit certainly gets everyone on the same page. And better to come off as aggressive and willing to fight for leadership, rather than embarrassed and defensive.

Some customers will respond well to that, and keep NetScout in the deal. A lot of others can’t give less of a crap, and will toss them out because in their organization it’s too hard to buy products without the MQ stamp of approval. NetScout was going to lose all those latter deals anyway – now maybe they stand a chance in the others. Though probably not.

So what will happen? NetScout will lose the suit. In fact it will likely be dismissed with prejudice, and NetScout will likely have to cover Gartner’s legal fees. Because how can you win a lawsuit over someone’s clearly stated opinion? It’s not like they are making libelous statements.

But NetScout might see a net gain because they will stay in deals longer. At least some deals. And if they close one deal they would have lost, they are likely to cover their legal fees.

So maybe they are smart and looking at this suit as a sales & marketing expense. Or maybe they are knuckleheads who actually expect some kind of favorable outcome from this legally nonsensical suit. Either way, they got a lot more folks talking about NetScout. Public relations for the win!

Photo credit: “Sue the Bastards” originally uploaded by Lloyd Doppler