Two recent victories for Google in the United States

By Nicole Daniel

On 20 February 2015 a federal judge in California dismissed an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging that it violated antitrust laws by requiring makers of Android tablets and smartphones to designate Google as the default search engine on the aforementioned devices.

The plaintiffs alleged that the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act and California’s Cartwright Act were violated by Google by requiring manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and LG Electronics to sign Mobile Application Distribution Agreements (MADAs) to make Google the default search engine on their devices.

In her ruling US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman held that the plaintiffs had not proven sufficiently enough that they had suffered an antitrust injury under neither federal nor state laws. Also they did not allege enough evidence to prove that Google’s conduct prevented mobile device users from choosing freely which search products they want or that competitors were prevented from innovating due to Google’s conduct.

Furthermore Judge Labson Freeman wrote that the allegations of hypothetical loss of consumer choice and innovation were “too conclusory and speculative”. The plaintiffs mistakenly tried to tie the effects of the alleged anticompetitive MADAs to the relevant alleged markets, i.e. handheld search and general Internet search, thereby trying to show that the MADAs hurt competition in these markets. However no relationship between the two markets and the MADAs was shown by the plaintiffs.

Judge Labson Freemann stated that this was “a close call”, but “the court must insist on greater specificity in pleading”.

Additionally, the plaintiffs tried to enforce California law even though they do not live on California but in Iowa and Kentucky respectively. The judge allowed the lawyers for the plaintiffs to amend their state claims to add a plaintiff from California.

The second recent success for Google is the state of Ohio’s termination of its antitrust investigation into Google’s business practice.

The state of Ohio had begun its investigation in May 2011 and notified Google in November 2014 that it has closed the investigation. Together with Texas and Mississippi, Ohio had continued its investigation even after the FTC closed its own probe in January 2013 by finding that there was insufficient evidence that search results were manipulated by Google. In the meantime Texas had also ended its investigation in 2014; Mississippi is therefore left being the only US state with an active antitrust inquiry into Google’s business practice.

However, outside of the US, Google is under investigation in Europe, Canada, South America and Asia.