Bellevue-based 180solutions filed a lawsuit against seven of its distributors yesterday, alleging that they exploited security holes and...

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Bellevue-based 180solutions filed a lawsuit against seven of its distributors yesterday, alleging that they exploited security holes and other means to install software on people’s computers without consent.

The lawsuit follows a number of steps taken by the company to separate its image from similar technologies, such as adware, which have gotten bad publicity for clogging users’ computers with unwanted advertisements.

180solutions calls its software “searchware” and says it is different from adware because it requires a user’s permission before he or she downloads it. The user may install it because it comes as part of a free offer, for instance, or to gain access to a certain Web site.

Users who do download the software receive two to three ads a day based on their searches and shopping patterns. 180solutions makes money when users view ads, and pays affiliates for each installation.

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In the lawsuit filed yesterday in King County Superior Court, 180solutions accuses seven of its affiliates — authorized to distribute the software — of installing it on users’ computers without permission.

“Defendants used a variety of tactics to force downloads of 180search Assistant onto users’ computers,” the complaint said.

Sean Sundwall, a spokesman for 180solutions, said several thousand people were infected by the software and that 180solutions paid the defendants a total of $60,000 for their installations.

He said 180solutions did not likely profit from these installations because the users probably noticed the software and uninstalled it before they viewed many ads.

“A year ago, it was probably more money to be had off of that, but with the proliferation of scanning, if that got on someone’s machine, they’d probably delete it,” he said. “There’s zero financial incentive to get an illegitimate install.”

The defendants named in the complaint are Eric de Vogt of Breda, Netherlands; Jesse Donohue of South Melbourne, Australia; Khalil Halel of Beirut, Lebanon; Imran Patel of Leicester, United Kingdom; Zarox Souchi of Toronto, Canada; and Youri Van Den Berg of Deventer, Netherlands.

Sundwall said distributors are required to sign a contract with 180solutions, agreeing to get a user’s permission before installing the software, but a couple of people with bad intentions always get through.

“This year, we’ve shut down 500 of our 8,000 distributors,” Sundwall said.

180solutions is seeking unspecified damages. Last month, it reached a settlement with Internext Media after filing a lawsuit on similar claims.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com