Google hopes to expedite resolution of its antitrust legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games, Match Group and attorneys general. In a new filing, Google’s legal team is now asking the court to settle several of the plaintiffs’ arguments regarding the nature of the app store business, revenue sharing agreements, and other app store-related projects. point in a partial motion for summary judgment.
According to Google, the court should now have enough information to make a decision on a handful of plaintiffs’ claims before the case goes to trial, saying those items do not violate antitrust law. If the court agrees with Google’s position, the lawsuit would still go ahead as other claims have yet to be argued in court.
In particular, Google wants the court’s verdict on five key claims that appear to be critical to the plaintiffs’ ability to prove anti-competitive conduct.
It wants the court to dismiss the argument that Google’s Developer Distribution Agreement is illegal because it prohibits distribution from other app stores. Google counters this by saying it has no legal obligation to distribute to other app stores, noting that most Android devices come preloaded with more than one app store. In addition, it points out that consumers can install additional app stores from the web browser.
“Android is the only major mobile platform that allows multiple app stores,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “In fact, most Android devices come with two or more pre-installed app stores, and consumers can install others. Epic, Match Group and state attorneys general are ignoring the openness and choice that Android and Google Play provide, and we look forward to taking our case to court,” she added.
Another argument it wants rejected focuses on “Project Hug,” a Google-run program designed to incentivize Android game developers to keep their games on the Google Play Store. The plaintiffs argued that Google quietly paid game developers millions of dollars in incentives as part of this initiative, which later became known as the “Apps and Games Velocity Program.” Epic Games claimed the program came about because Google feared other developers would follow suit after it released Fortnite for Android exclusively outside the Play Store through its own installer. Presumably, Google was also concerned that Epic would make other exclusive pre-install deals with OEMs like Samsung to lower its revenue split.
The program itself was fairly successful as Google was able to make deals with a number of developers, including Activision Blizzard, to keep their games on the Play Store, previous filings showed.
However, Google argues that Project Hug was not an anti-competitive move, but was mischaracterized by the plaintiffs. It says the program offered developers benefits and early access to Google Play users when developers released new or updated content, but it didn’t stop developers from creating competing app stores.
The company also denies claims about revenue-sharing agreements with wireless carriers, saying they are outside the statute of limitations. The agreements have expired more than four years ago, Google says, so they should be rejected.
In addition, Google claims that the AGs and the consumer class failed to demonstrate that Google harmed competition by selling app subscriptions and in-app purchases to consumers. For that reason, consumers should not be able to recover any of these alleged overcharges, Google says.
The last claim focuses on tying – or the claim that in order to buy one product the buyer also had to buy another (or tied) product. The plaintiffs argued that Google Play and Google Play’s billing services are illegally linked, but Google says this is not true. Instead, it states that Play’s billing services are not a separate product. It also notes that over 90% of apps on Google Play are free and developers pay nothing when they are downloaded.
The new push for a partial summary judgment follows shortly after last month’s ruling that Google’s failure to preserve some of its posts from discovery requires sanctions. The plaintiffs successfully demonstrated that Google employees tended to disable chat history in internal discussions, in an effort to destroy sensitive communications related to the case. The DoJ recently raised the same issue in its own antitrust investigation. The judge gave plaintiffs’ lawyers until April 21 to pay any amount of legal fees they are requesting as part of the sanctions, to begin with.
Google previously requested a postponement of the trial and was denied.
Epic Games has been asked for comment and we will update if one is provided.