Google and Apple Press for Dismissal of Consumers’ Online Search Conspiracy Allegations

Google, Apple, and several of their executives told a California federal judge to ax a case filed by Google search users alleging that Google paid Apple billions to stay out of the online search engine market. Last week’s dismissal motion claims that the plaintiffs, who seek divestiture as one of several remedies, “overreach at every step.”

The plaintiffs’ case centers on an alleged and secretive agreement between the companies since 2005. They say that Google and Apple agreed that Google would take the helm of online searches in exchange for Apple’s agreement to stay out of the market, other concessions, and of course, payment.

The illicit conspiracy drove up prices for consumers, the complaint said. It stated claims for agreement not to compete and conspiracy to monopolize the online search business under the Sherman Act.

Google and Apple moved the court to relate the instant case with one filed by a business that paid for Google search advertising. In an docket-only order, the court refused, finding the cases sufficiently separate.

Now, the defendants have asked for dismissal of the consumers’ case with prejudice. The companies defend their agreement as a lawful, publicly known vertical business relationship.

They assert that the allegations underlying the plaintiffs’ “far-fetched non-compete agreement” do not support their Sherman Act causes of action. The motion specifies that they fail to satisfy the elements of an illegal agreement and cannot connect the challenged restraint to the injury claimed, defeating antitrust standing.

The defendants also criticize the allegations as stale, barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations, and that there is no way for the plaintiffs to bridge past and present conduct.

Lastly, the plaintiffs seek unattainable remedies, the complaint says citing their request for disgorgement and injunctive relief on behalf of the greater public. The motion argues that those are “categorically unavailable” as well as their extreme request to break Google and Apple up into smaller companies.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Alioto Law Firm among other firms. Google and its executives are represented by Williams & Connolly LLP and Apple and Tim Cook by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.