SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys for Google Inc. are striking back at a federal class action that accuses the company of monopolizing the mobile search sector by pressuring Android smartphone makers to install Google as the default search app on their devices.
In a motion to dismiss filed late Friday, Bingham McCutchen partner Brian Rocca argued Google did not break antitrust laws or harm customers through its deals with Android partners. Google allowed the manufacturers to preload devices with a suite of popular Google-owned apps, including Google Maps and YouTube, in exchange for making Google the default search engine.
Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro sued Google in May, alleging those agreements quash competition for default search engine status and provide Google with an ill-gotten monopoly.
But Google’s lawyers describe the agreements as optional and noncoercive. Mobile device makers were free to license the Android operating system without preloading any Google apps, the brief states, and nothing prevents consumers from using other search engines.
“Both [manufacturers] and consumers can install multiple search apps,” Rocca wrote. “Consumers also can change search settings on their mobile devices. … The [agreement] does not prevent a consumer from ultimately determining how to conduct searches on the device.”
Plaintiffs have not alleged any manufacturer or user who wanted to preload a non-Google search engine on an Android device was prevented from doing so, Google’s lawyers state, crediting the company’s dominance to its success in designing an optimal and powerful search engine.
Rocca is joined on the brief by lawyers in Bingham McCutchen’s San Francisco and Washington, D.C., offices, as well as attorneys with Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C.
Plaintiffs’ damages theory in Feitelson v. Google, 14-2007, hinges on the idea of what smartphone manufacturers might have done if the Google agreement weren’t in play. The complaint alleges Google’s search rivals likely would have paid manufacturers to be the default search engine, thereby lowering phone prices.
Rocca dismissed the theory as “remote and speculative.”
“Consumers did not purchase anything, directly or indirectly, from Google in the alleged relevant markets—indeed, consumers can use Google Search for free,” he wrote. “Consumers cannot ‘overpay’ for Google’s free Android operating system, free mobile apps, and free search service.”
Berman did not return a phone call seeking comment. Defense attorneys referred questions to Google representatives, who did not respond to an email.
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