Competition: the historic United States trial against Google opens

The historic United States trial against Google opened on Tuesday in a federal court in Washington, accused of abusing the dominant position of its famous search engine.

This marathon trial, expected to last ten weeks, is a crucial test for Joe Biden’s government, which has established itself as a champion of competition law but is struggling to convince the courts.

“This case is about the future of the Internet and the question of whether Google will ever face significant competition in the search industry,” prosecutors’ representative Kenneth Dintzer said in opening remarks.

According to the US government, Google built its empire through illegal contracts with companies such as Mozilla, Samsung and Apple to have its tool installed by default on their smartphones and services.

This dominance of the Internet and therefore of digital advertising has allowed Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to become one of the richest companies in the world.

The evidence presented by the US government “will demonstrate that Google deceived the public” and that it “withheld documents that it knew violated antitrust law”, Kenneth Dintzer said.

The latter showed the court a presentation made in 2007 by a Google engineer in which he praised contracts that guarantee the installation of the default search engine, presented as “a powerful strategic weapon”.

With numerous supporting witnesses, the Californian company will try to convince federal judge Amit Mehta that the Justice Department’s accusations are unfounded.

“Our success is deserved,” said Kent Walker, chief legal officer of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in an official statement.

“People don’t use Google because they have no choice but to want to. It’s easy to change the default search engine, we’re no longer in the days of modems and CD-ROMs,” she added.

« Coqueluche of Silicon Valley »

This is the largest competition lawsuit brought against a major technology company since the same regulator attacked Microsoft for its dominance of the Windows operating system.

Launched in 1998, Washington’s lawsuit against Microsoft ended with a settlement in 2001, after an appeals court overturned the decision ordering the company to split.

At the time, Google was “the darling of Silicon Valley as a combative start-up offering an innovative way to search the nascent Internet,” the department said in its complaint. “That Google is long gone.”

Dozens of US states, led by Colorado, have also joined the fight. Although the judge rejected some of their arguments before the trial, including accusing Google of illegally downgrading sites like Yelp and Expedia.

The search engine represents 90% of this market in the United States and around the world, particularly thanks to searches performed on smartphones, primarily iPhones (Apple) and Android-powered phones (Google).

Revenue from search-based advertising represents almost 60% of the group’s revenue, much more than its other branches, from YouTube to Android.

Its rivals, such as Bing (Microsoft) and DuckDuckGo, have never managed to gain much popularity.


Google is at risk. If Amit Mehta decides in favor of the United States in a few months, the group risks being forced to part with some businesses to force it to change its methods or give up signing installation contracts by default.

In Europe it has already been fined more than 8.2 billion euros for various competition law violations, although some of these decisions are under appeal.

The stakes are also high for Joe Biden’s government. The legal actions were launched in 2020 by Donald Trump’s administration, but the Democratic president has wanted to challenge the tech giants, without much success so far.

In July, the US competition watchdog, the FTC, suspended proceedings to block Microsoft’s acquisition of video game publisher Activision Blizzard after a series of legal snags.

In January, the Justice Department filed another complaint against Google over its advertising business. The trial could take place next year.

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