Microsoft is being dragged into the large case of the federal antitrust against Google, which sparked a significant battle over the data held by Redmond, and the company is now facing a subpoena for millions of documents that could shed light on its attempts to compete with Google’s search engine.
Having initially partnered with prosecutors in building an antitrust case against Google, Microsoft could be forced to produce millions of documents more at the request of the Google defense team.
Judge Amit Mehta heard arguments from Google and Microsoft on the matter on Friday morning, but ultimately found that more information was needed before the court could provide guidance on how much internal data Microsoft would be required to. to produce.
“These are difficult problems for any judge to solve in an objective and meaningful way”, Mehta told the lawyers, “And it’s especially true given that, compared to the additional keepers, I have no sense of the volume that would be producing… or what that volume would mean for production time.”
Filed in October 2020, the Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Google focuses on anti-competitive behavior in search and search advertising, arguing among other claims that the company’s exclusivity agreements on Android and iOS exclude search engines. competitors. Separate antitrust cases against Google have also been filed focusing on the company’s browser privacy settings egon the alleged manipulation of search results.
Prior to the Department of Justice filing the allegations, Microsoft provided over 400,000 documents to prosecutors’ civil investigation requests. In a deposit before today’s hearing, Google argued that the participation entitles the company to a similar set of ch documentsand could be useful in its defense.
“These executives cover the issues at the heart of the case”says Google.
“No third party is more central than Microsoft in this litigation. Complaints from the DOJ and Colorado refer to it or its products dozens of times “, we read in the Google document. “Having so obviously solicited and assisted in the preparation of these complaints to be filed against Google, Microsoft cannot credibly avoid a significant discovery in these cases.”
Google first issued a subpoena to Microsoft in April, looking for “Older documents that shed light on whether Microsoft was actually held back from competing with Google or whether it simply failed to compete successfully on the merits”.
But Microsoft agreed to search only eight of the 27 executives and drastically limited the search strings they would be subject to. Google is now demanding a stronger order from the court to force Microsoft to produce documents.
Microsoft accused of omitting data relevant to Google
In an appendix to its filing, Google listed 19 current and former Microsoft executives who may hold communications relevant to the case, including former Windows Phone boss Andrew Lees and former Windows boss Terry Myerson.
“These executives address issues at the heart of the case: the development and distribution of Microsoft’s various search engines, Microsoft’s search advertising business, and Microsoft’s effort to market devices that would give even more access points to the business. search beyond the ubiquitous Windows desktop, “we read in the file. “Google is simply looking for a discovery commensurate with the plaintiffs’ allegations, which date back two decades.”
In its own filing, Microsoft rejected this logic, arguing that Google is making unnecessarily large requests in an effort to further delay the case. “In the last nine days, in fact, Google has proposed seventeen additional custodians”, Microsoft’s filing states, “Of which nine on July 19th, five on July 26th and three today, July 27th. Google has not explained why it believes that research into these additional twenty-eight custodians is necessary ”.
By weighing the two arguments, the court seemed to favor Google’s version of the case slightly, but ultimately he asked for more information on the cost of producing the documents. “The description of the people that Google has identified as additional custodians certainly struck me as unreachable”Judge Mehta said, “And I haven’t heard Microsoft declare today, that there’s a slight chance they have any relevant documents.”
However, the court eventually found that there was not enough information on the burden posed by production, and the dispute is expected to continue until at least August 20, the deadline set for further filings on the subject.
“The best I can do for you today is to give you a deadline by which to respond to me with concrete information,” Judge Mehta told the parties.
The discovery is a further breakthrough in what is likely to be a long and controversial investigation period, for the Antitrust case Microsoft says it believes the first phase of its document production will last at least until October this year. The start of the trial for US v. Google is scheduled for September 12, 2023.