Google and Apple seek to end an antitrust conspiracy case in the search engine market

Google, Apple and some of their current and former executives hit back at allegations that they conspired to monopolize the online search engine market in a flurry of lawsuits filed late last week. Their jointly filed motion to dismiss argues that plaintiff is “overstepping at every step” and that its claims fail for lack of standing and failure to bring a claim.

The class action lawsuit, filed in the final days of last year by a California school that trains people to use cranes, argued that Google paid Apple more than $50 billion in return for agreeing to stay out of the online search engine industry. According to the complaint, the companies and some executives orchestrated a horizontal deal under which Apple bowed to Google’s dominance in exchange for money and agreed to make Google the default search engine for its Safari web browser. .

The complaint sets out two claims for relief: agreement not to compete in the research business in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and conspiracy to monopolize the market in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.

Last week, the defendants responded with several motions, including a motion to compel arbitration by Google and two motions to stay discovery pending resolution of the offers to arbitrate and/or dismiss.

In their motion to dismiss, Google and Apple argue that the plaintiff misconstrues their vertical business relationship as an unlawful horizontal conspiracy. Furthermore, they argue that the underlying agreements are not secret, but in fact a matter of public record. “Stripped of its repetitive conclusive assertions of conspiracy, the complaint contains nothing more than a recitation of benign and public facts which do not show a conspiracy unlawful in law,” the petition states.

With respect to standing, the defendants claim that the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate antitrust harm, which in this case is inflated prices paid to place search advertising on Google. Google and Apple confuse plaintiff’s “outlandish non-compete agreement” theory by arguing that it “requires at least five speculative steps to even vaguely connect the dots between the impugned restriction and the claimed harm.”

The companies advise that “[t]This is precisely the kind of case that the Supreme Court said would require rigorous application of the pleading requirements of section 12” in seeking dismissal with prejudice.

Plaintiff and the putative class are represented by the law firm Alioto and the law firms of Lawrence G. Papale, among others. Google and its executives are represented by Williams & Connolly LLP and Apple and Tim Cook by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.