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Epic Games verdict adds to Google’s global antitrust woes

Epic Games booth for the game Fortnite is shown at E3, the annual video games expo revealing the latest in gaming software and hardware in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Epic Games booth for the game Fortnite is shown at E3, the annual video games expo revealing the latest in gaming software and hardware in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The Epic Games verdict adds to Google’s global antitrust woes. The “Fortnite” producer, Epic Games, prevailed in a significant antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) in San Francisco. On Monday, the company convinced a federal jury that some limitations the internet giant had implemented for its Play Store app violated United States competition law.

This is a look at the next step in the lawsuit and other significant antitrust concerns that Google is now facing.

HOW DID THE VERDICT TURN OUT?

After three hours of discussion, the jury concluded that stringent regulations on its Play Store constituted an unlawful monopoly over the distribution of applications to Android users and the handling of payments inside applications. There was no request for monetary damages made by Epic to the court.

In a previous ruling, a court had determined that Google had wrongfully erased internal internet “chat” records pertinent to Epic’s allegations. The fact that the evidence would have damaged Google was communicated to the jurors.

What is the next step?
In January, United States District Judge James Donato will hear competing arguments about Epic’s request for a court order to redesign how Google administers the Play Store system. Google may contest Epic’s proposed revisions, arguing they are too comprehensive.

The ruling of the jury will be appealed, according to Google. There is also the possibility that it will challenge Donato’s ultimate judgment over Epic’s desired remedies, which could set the stage for years of more litigation.

The appeal that Google will file will be considered by the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, which is located in San Francisco. This is the same court that handled Epic’s separate antitrust complaint against Apple in 2020 about its regulation regarding the App Store.

The appeals court ruled in favor of Apple in April, mainly upholding the 2021 decision by United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers that Apple’s app regulations did not violate antitrust law.

The circumstances of the two instances were different, according to legal academics, and one of the most significant differences was that the judge decided in the case against Apple independently, without the involvement of a jury.

The United States Supreme Court is considering Epic’s request to bring the Apple lawsuit back to life. Additionally, Apple filed an appeal against a portion of the court’s ruling that would force the company to make some modifications to its App Store.

DO YOU KNOW OF ANY OTHER ANTITRUST CASES THAT GOOGLE IS RESOLVING?

In addition to accusations made by the US government, publishers and advertisers in the country have filed several private civil antitrust cases against Google.

The highest court in the European Union (EU) imposed a $2.6 billion antitrust fine on Google for alleged market abuses related to its shopping business. Google is attempting to reverse this sentence.

Antitrust attorneys claim that while the decision in the Epic Games case does not immediately affect the other claims, it may persuade other potential plaintiffs, such as businesses and app developers, to join forces in a class action lawsuit.

In a case initiated by the United States Department of Justice and a coalition of states over Google’s dominance in digital advertising, the company is expected to be put on trial by a jury in Virginia that will take place the following year. Google has denied any wrongdoing at this time.

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