A US court has ruled that the use of automated-search engines - known as bots - is trespass.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction barring Bidder’s Edge from using automated search engines. The company used these to harvest information on eBay to find the best deals. The judge found: "The law recognizes no such right to use another’s property." He ruled the company was using eBay’s computer resources without permission, according to FT.com.

The finding, if upheld, could affect search engines too, who use bots to find Web sites. The ruling could also affect comparison-shopping sites, or any Internet-based business using bots.

The ruling is expected to kick-start a backlash from the Internet industries.