A few months ago, I wrote about two companies that were being punished through the legal system because they were too successful in the marketplace. One was Apple, where the French government was contemplating passing a law forcing Apple to divulge proprietary information to the government so that competitors’ music formats could be played on Apple iPods (ostensibly in the name of protecting the consumer). The second was a lawsuit filed against Google by the website KinderStart.com that was unhappy about its low rankings on the Google search engine.
There are now two unfortunate updates.
First, the French Parliament has indeed approved the bad law. Unless a last-minute constitutional challenge succeeds, the law will take effect soon. Plus, this may just be the beginning of the European attack on Apple’s rights. According to this related article:
In a sign that other governments may follow France’s example, there have been recent proposals or regulatory moves to open up iTunes in Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Poland.
Second, the judge presiding in the lawsuit against Google may allow the plaintiff KinderStart to include an anti-trust claim against Google. Normally, companies would have a hard time with a complaint against Google based purely on a low search engine ranking, since Google could claim protection under the First Amendment (much as a restaurant would have a hard time suing a newspaper for an unfavorable review). But since KinderStart is also a niche search website specializing in parenting-related sites, they can make the following additional claim against Google:
The parenting site alleges that Google engaged in anticompetitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws by removing a competitor from its top search pages in order to maintain its dominance in the search market. During his questioning of the parties, the issue of antitrust appeared to resonate with the judge, who indicated he understood the point KinderStart was trying to make.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of lawyers advocating bad ideas here.