Skip to main content

Google's Victory, and Tie-In Law

Google is coming under increased antitrust scrutiny. Photo / Getty

On April 3, plaintiffs withdrew a lawsuit against Google in a federal court in northern California, a lawsuit in which they had contended that Google was illegally tying its licensing of the Android operating system to the favorable treatment of Google apps.

 They didn't withdraw their complaint because they had a change of heart. They did so because an earlier ruling by this court had pulled their ladder out from under them. It was jump to the ground or take a nasty fall.

Here's a link to a news story on the subject.

What is striking about this lawsuit is how much it resembles similar lawsuits brought against Microsoft back when it was the great digital boogeyman. Then, too, the central argument was a tying theory. [Sometimes that is written "tie-in." Fortunately, the two phrases sound the same, so when people speak to one another about these matters, there's no real chance for confusion. One creates a tie-in by tying one product or service to another, and the type of action one brought against a company dominant in one market, seeking to extend its dominance to another in such a name, can take either term as label.]

Judge Beth Labson Freeman seems to have been less tolerant of this general line of argument than Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson had been 20 years before. Freeman ruled in February that the plaintiffs had failed to allege with proper specificity what they must, that consumers have paid higher prices as a consequence of the restrictive contracts complained of. The consumers were third parties to the contracts at issue, in which Google entered into deals with handset manufacturers requiring them to construct the handsets in such a way as to favor Google's famous search engine [over, for example, Microsoft's Bing] in order to be licensed to use the operating system Android.

Anyway: freeman ordered them to amend their claims in order to state clearly a connection between the manufacturing restrictions and harm to consumers. They presumably decided they couldn't do that, and withdrew the action altogether in early April.

This is a good thing. There is a good deal of competition in the smart phone world. The big two are clearly Android and Apple, but Microsoft is in the field as well, and Blackberry still has a presence. It isn't clear that Google has the dominance in this world that it would need in order to use exclusivity to give itself dominance somewhere else.


Popular posts from this blog

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …