SAN RAMON, Calif. — The U.S. government’s attempt to prove Google has been using its dominance of online search to stifle competition and innovation at the expense of consumers and advertisers won’t go to trial for nearly three years.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Friday set a tentative trial date of Sept. 12, 2023 for the landmark case that the Justice Department filed two months ago.
“This dispels the notion that we would go to trial quickly,” said Mehta during a conference call with government and Google lawyers to go over the ground rules for exchanging confidential documents and deposing top Google executives.
He estimated that once the trial begins it will last about 5 1/2 weeks in his Washington, D.C., courtroom.
The prolonged wait for the trial underscores the complexity of a case seeking to defuse the power of a startup that sprouted from Silicon Valley garage in 1998 and evolved into a $1 trillion company whose services are regularly used by billions of people around the world.
Between now and the trial’s opening, reams of documents peering into Google’s inner workings and its deals with Apple and other well-known companies are expected to be examined. Many of the documents will be kept confidential, while others may be publicly released and peel back the curtain on the way Google operates.
Mehta is also allowing sworn depositions of eight Google executives for up to 14 hours each. The identities of those Google executives haven’t been determined yet. Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, as well as two former CEOs, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, are among the leading candidates to be deposed about the company’s strategy and dealings.
Google has fiercely denied the government’s allegations that it has illegally struck a series of deals to thwart competition in the search market to help give it a stranglehold on a digital advertising market that has brought in more than $100 billion in revenue to the company during the first nine months of this year alone.
The company’s staunch insistence that it has done nothing wrong makes a pre-trial settlement seem unlikely.
With the trial still years away, Google will conceivably become an even more imposing force before the federal government and the attorneys general in dozens of states, including Maine, get their day in court. Another antitrust case filed Thursday is seeking to preempt Google’s dominance in other still-emerging fields of technology such as voice-activated devices in the home and internet-connected cars. That case is likely to be combined with the Justice Department’s.
Story by Michael Liedtke.