Google Inc won a small battle in its larger war to make inroads into government contracting when a federal judge ordered the Interior Department to rethink a proposed bid for a contract for email services.
Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. issued a preliminary injunction that ordered the Interior Department to put on hold a request for a bid to upgrade its email system.
Google's challenge comes as part of a larger effort to win government contracts for email and other services.
Google, which dominates Internet search, filed suit in November, saying the Interior Department acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by only considering proposals based on Microsoft Corp technology.
Google objected to the request for the five-year contract, worth up to about $59 million, and asked for a preliminary injunction to stop it from going forward.
Google also complained last month when the U.S. Agriculture Department announced it was moving 120,000 of its employees onto email, Web conferencing and messaging systems provided over the Internet by Microsoft.
Also last month, Google won a share of a contract the General Services Administration awarded. Unisys Corp won the five-year, $6.7 million contract, with Google as a subcontractor, to transition the GSA to a secure cloud-based platform that includes Google's Gmail, Calendar and other applications.
In her ruling, Judge Braden said Google made sufficient showing the Interior Department violated rules about competition in contracting and sent the matter back to the Interior Department.
Braden, however, said the court made no judgment on whether Microsoft was the right supplier for the contract.
The court ... discerns no basis in the present administrative record to support Google allegations of bad faith, the judge wrote.
Likewise, the court discerns no improper conduct by Microsoft, the actions of which show only competitive zeal and interest in customer satisfaction.
A Google spokesman said the decision was a good one.
As a proponent of open competition on the Internet and in the technology sector in general, we're pleased with the court's decision, the spokesman said.
Microsoft had no immediate comment. An Interior Department spokesman said it would not comment on ongoing litigation.
In July, Google introduced a special version of its Web-based productivity software designed to meet stringent U.S. government security requirements. Google's Apps for Government is certified under the Federal Information Security Management Act, which the company said means it can handle government information deemed sensitive, but not classified.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Jasmin Melvin; editing by Andre Grenon)