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Google Gets an Antitrust Win -- and That's No Surprise

Google (GOOG) just won an antitrust battle when an Ohio court dismissed a lawsuit by, which claimed that Google had boycotted it. The interesting fact? This is another likely suit by proxy for Microsoft (MSFT), which is trying to slow down Google and its march to disrupt client computing as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer knows it.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this tactic may not work. Google may act as though rules are for the little guy, but when it comes to antitrust, at least in the U.S., the law is pretty clear. It's going to be tough to prove that Google is a monopoly -- and, ironically enough, Microsoft itself is Larry Page's best defense.

Don't look at them
The Ohio case covers ground similar to that traversed by the FTC's investigation of Google. Both look at whether Google trips competitors by making them relatively invisible in searches, thus favoring the company's own businesses.

The judge said that while the federal Communications Decency Act did not prohibit state antitrust laws from being in effect, made a fatal error. Its suit showed harm to it, but not to other competitors.

Microsoft's remote court access feature
Microsoft says that it isn't behind the myTriggers suit, but it does seem odd that the lawyer representing the company -- Charles Rule of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft -- also happens to be Microsoft's top outside antitrust attorney.

In fact, say antitrust and Google in the same breath and there's a good chance that you'll find Microsoft. The latter has ties to some companies that brought antitrust charges in Europe against Google. Undoubtedly, a coincidence.

Need an excuse? Here's one
After all, what is Microsoft going to do? Claim that Google is pushing it out of the market? Given Microsoft's history as an antitrust target, there's a great irony in the position. The problem for Microsoft is that, at least in the U.S., Google may not be a monopoly, at least as far as a court might find.

To show antitrust in this country, someone has to prove that Google has market dominance, which means the power to arbitrarily raise prices, and the standard benchmark for a monopoly is two-thirds of a market.

Even in search, Google might not even break that mark. The second irony of this story is that Microsoft's search, through Bing and Yahoo (YHOO), has gained enough ground that it could be the single force preventing Google from getting that degree of market share.

Now, the EU is another matter, because showing anti-competitive action is easier there. And, after all, Microsoft doesn't really expect to put Google out of business. But tripping it enough times, in enough places, could still be an effective competitive tactic.


Image: Flickr user MelvinSchlubman, CC 2.0.
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