Google, Apple Press Court to Relate Consumer and Advertiser Online Search Market Conspiracy Cases

Defendants Google, Apple, and several of their executives have jointly moved to relate the California Crane School’s (CCS) antitrust action to a subsequently filed consumer case. The companies explain that the plaintiffs in both actions refused to agree to consolidate them despite their counsel’s repeated acknowledgement of the cases’ similarity.

As previously reported, both sets of plaintiffs allege that Apple agreed with Google not to compete in the online search engine business since 2005. The complaints reference the same alleged meetings between the company’s executives, the same quotations by Google and Apple employees, and the same vertical revenue sharing agreement.

They also state the same claims for relief: agreement not to compete and conspiracy to monopolize the “search business” under the Sherman Act, purportedly limiting consumer choice and driving up prices. Lastly, the plaintiffs seek the same relief in both actions, including equitable relief taking the forms of disgorgement and divestiture.

The difference is that CCS’s complaint was brought on behalf of individuals and businesses who paid for Google search advertising whereas the latter complaint was filed on behalf of users of Google Search.

The defendant companies now contend that the cases meet the local rule requirements for relating actions as they “feature substantially identical allegations, claims, and parties.” The three-page motion points out that allegations in the latter-filed consumer complaint are in some cases verbatim to the initial action.

The defendants also cite numerous occasions where plaintiffs’ counsel purportedly acknowledged the cases’ relatedness. For example, CCS’s mandamus petition to the Ninth Circuit concerning the district court’s order delaying discovery lists the consumer case as a related one.

Further, Google and Apple warn of the risk of duplicative effort on part of themselves and the court system, noting that dismissal briefing is already underway in the CCS case. Too, they bring up the possibility of conflicting judgments.

The plaintiff and putative class are represented by Alioto Law Firm and Law Offices 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.