Microsoft Turning The Antitrust Tables On Google


Last week, after EU antitrust authorities said they were looking into three complaints related to Microsoft's search and advertising businesses, Google pointed out that two of the three complaints came from companies with Microsoft ties. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Charles "Rick" Rule, Microsoft's chief outside counsel for antitrust issues and a member of the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, is representing a small Ohio-based Web site in an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

In Google's view, it's obvious that Microsoft is waging a behind-the-scenes legal campaign in a bid to stall the search giant's progress.

"It's become clear that our competitors are scouring court dockets around the world looking for complaints against Google into which they can inject themselves, learn more about our business practices, and use that information to develop a broader antitrust complaint against us," Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told The Wall Street Journal.

Interestingly, Microsoft isn't hiding its desire to get regulators looking more closely at Google's business. "Complaints in competition law cases usually come from competitors," Dave Heiner, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, in said a Friday blog post.

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Of course, Microsoft is no stranger to antitrust litigation and has been wrangling with EU regulators for more than a decade, so its view of the situation Google now faces is that turnabout is fair play. Microsoft, in recent meetings with U.S. and European antitrust regulators to review its search deal with Yahoo, has offered its view of the impact that Google's control over search and online advertising could have on the market, Heiner wrote.

"As Google's power has grown in recent years, we've increasingly heard complaints from a range of firms -- large and small -- about a wide variety of Google business practices," wrote Heiner.

Heiner also noted that Eric Schmidt, both in his current role as Google CEO and previous position as CEO of Novell, has often complained to regulators about Microsoft, and should therefore be well acquainted with the intricacies of competition law. Heiner stopped short of confirming Microsoft's role in the current EU antitrust investigation of Google, but he didn't deny it either.

"Ultimately what's important is not who is complaining, but whether or not the challenged practices are anticompetitive," Heiner wrote.