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3/1/2010
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Google Says Microsoft Waging Proxy War

The search giant sees Redmond's hand behind a series of antitrust actions in the U.S. and Europe.

Google claims Microsoft is hijacking lawsuits and complaints brought by third parties to stir up antitrust sentiment against it and pressure regulators into limiting the search giant's business practices.

"It's become clear that our competitors are scouring court documents around the world looking for complaints against Google into which they can inject themselves, learn more about our business practices, and use that information to develop a broader antitrust complaint against us," a Google spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal, in a story published Monday.

Google noted that a collections lawsuit it filed against a small, Ohio-based Internet site called myTriggers.com was met with a sophisticated antitrust countersuit. Representing myTriggers.com is none other than Charles Rule, of the high-powered D.C. law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

Rule frequently acts as outside counsel for Microsoft in antitrust matters.

Google also sees Microsoft's hand in antitrust actions in Europe, where the European Commission last week launched a probe into Google's dominance of online advertising on the Continent. The probe was sparked by complaints of search-rank discrimination by three companies—legal research firm Ejustice.fr, and online price comparison sites Ciao and Foundem.

Microsoft acquired Ciao in 2008, while Foundem is a member of a Microsoft-backed lobby group called Initiative for a Competitive Online Market Place (ICOMP).

"It's no secret we share many of these concerns," a Microsoft spokesperson conceded to WSJ.

That Google is drawing antitrust scrutiny should come as no surprise. The company controlled 65% of the Internet search market in the U.S. as of February, according to comScore, and its influence is growing abroad, as well.

For its part, Google maintains its search ranking practices are fair, and that antitrust concerns are just par for the course for one of the world's fastest growing tech firms.

"This kind of scrutiny goes with the territory when you are a large company," said Julia Holtz, Google's senior competition counsel, in a blog post last week.

"However, we've always worked hard to ensure that our success is earned the right way—through technological innovation and great products rather than by locking in our users or advertisers, or creating artificial barriers to entry," said Holtz.

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