Ruling Confirms Google Must Face DOJ's Digital Advertising Antitrust Lawsuit

Siding against Google, a federal judge on Friday refused to dismiss the Department of Justice's lawsuit claiming that the company used anticompetitive tactics to monopolize digital display advertising.

The decision, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, means Google must continue to defend itself from the claims, but doesn't mean the company will ultimately lose the lawsuit. Brinkema hasn't yet issued a written opinion spelling out her reasoning.

The ruling comes in a complaint dating to January, when the federal government and eight states alleged that Google had "corrupted legitimate competition" in the ad tech industry.

Among other claims, the officials alleged that Google monopolized the U.S. publisher ad server market, monopolized the U.S. advertiser ad network market, and monopolized (or attempted to monopolize) the U.S. ad exchange market.

The complaint included allegations that Google dominates the market for online display ads due to several acquisitions, including its 2008 purchase of DoubleClick, and its 2010 acquisitions of Invite Media, and AdMeld.

Google urged Brinkema to dismiss the claims at an early stage of the proceedings, arguing that the government's definitions of the various markets wrongly excluded competitors.

For instance, Google argued, the complaint's definition of the “ad network” market didn't include social media ads or mobile ads.

A Google representative said Friday that the lawsuit "ignores the reality of today’s dynamic digital advertising space," adding that the company competes against "hundreds" of others, such as Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and TikTok.

"This lawsuit would slow innovation, raise advertising fees, and make it harder for thousands of small businesses and publishers to grow. This case is wrong on the facts and the law, and we'll now set the record straight in court,” Dan Taylor, vice president of global ads said through a Google spokesperson.

The allegations in the matter before Brinkema are similar to those of a separate antitrust lawsuit brought by a Texas-led coalition of state attorneys general. That matter also focuses on Google's role in online display advertising.

U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel in New York, who presides over the Texas-led lawsuit, recently allowed the states to proceed with claims that Google attempted to monopolize markets connected to display ads, and that Google used its market power in the ad-exchange market to force publishers to use its ad server. Castel dismissed other claims in that lawsuit, including ones based on  allegations that the company collaborated with Facebook to undermine header bidding.

The Department of Justice alleged in a separate complaint, brought in 2020, that Google monopolizes the market for search. That matter is pending in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

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