Alphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company, has won an early victory in the Google Maps antitrust litigation filed in the Northern District of California. U.S. Judge Jeffery S. White dismissed the complaint without prejudice on Nov. 1, 2022, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege their illegal tying claim.
The antitrust case, which brought as a class action, was filed by Big Dream Media, Getify Solutions, Inc. and Sprinter Supplier, LLC on behalf of themselves and all other companies engaged in digital advertising, app development, and ecommerce who rely on mapping applications, such as food delivery apps. The lawsuit alleged that Google violated the Sherman Act by forbidding app developers from “mixing-and-matching” Google Map software with non-Google mapping solutions.
According to the court, to assert a tying claim plaintiffs must allege that a) Google ties the sale of two separate products in separate markets, b) Google has the economic power to force purchasers to buy both products, c) the tied product affect a significant portion of commerce, and d) that there are no viable alternatives to the products on the market.
Plaintiffs alleged that the relevant product markets were map APIs, route APIs and place APIs – markets in which Google allegedly controls 90%. The plaintiffs alleged that under the company’s terms of service they are prevented from mixing-and-matching Google’s APIs with non-Google APIs.
Granting Google’s motion to dismiss, Judge White ruled that the plaintiffs failed to properly assert a claim under the Sherman Act because the plaintiffs allegations that Google forced app developers to use their mapping APIs, route APIs or places APIs were conclusory.
The court also found that plaintiffs failed to properly allege a tie between products in two separate relevant markets. Although the plaintiffs identified the maps APIs, routes APIs and places APIs as relevant markets in their opposition to Google’s motion to dismiss, they failed properly to identify these markets in their complaint. The plaintiffs alleged a “business-to-business market,” but the court found that Google failed to plausibly allege that Google had significant economic power in that market to force app developers to use their APIs. The plaintiffs also failed to allege any lack of reasonably priced alternatives to Google’s services, the court ruled.
The case is not over, as the plaintiffs have leave to amend. And although the judge expressed doubt about the propriety of the plaintiffs’ class definition, that is a bridge best crossed at the certification stage.
Edited by Tom Hagy for MoginRubin LLP.