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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.



We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…