Lawsuit Alleges Google Paid Apple to Stay Out of Search

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors:

Apple has an agreement with Google that it won’t develop its own internet search engine so long as Google pays it to remain the default option in Safari, a new class action alleges.

Filed in a California court earlier this week against Apple, Google, and their respective CEOs, the lawsuit alleges the two companies have a non-compete agreement in the internet search business that violates US antitrust laws.

This is one hell of a lawsuit; you can read the complaint here (PDF). Unlike many antitrust suits, it does not argue solely that Google’s presence as the default browser on all of Apple’s platforms — and its multibillion-dollar annual payments for its position — is illegally hampering competition. Rather, it claims that Apple has agreed not to develop a search engine to avoid giving Google any competition. It also says that Tim Cook derived personal bonuses based on this agreement.

I am not a lawyer; I have no idea if this case is legally sound. But the evidence for these allegations amounts to, more or less, a couple of photographs of Cook and Sundar Pichai at dinner, and some out-of-context quotes. The complainants say that the talks during these dinners were “taped by bystanders” but I see no recordings or transcripts in the docket. I will also note that Apple has, in Spotlight, its own general-purpose web search engine built into its platforms.