Appeals Court Revives Ad-Tech Company’s Antitrust Claims Against Google
Google must face antitrust claims brought by the Atlanta-based online ad tech company Inform, Inc., a federal appellate court ruled Friday.
The ruling reversed a decision issued last year by U.S. District Court Judge J.P. Boulee in Atlanta, who ruled that Inform’s complaint included “numerous conclusory, vague and immaterial facts” that weren’t obviously tethered to particular legal claims.
A panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that Inform’s complaint, while lengthy, provided Google with enough information to understand the basis of the dispute.
“To be sure, the complaint is certainly long and may not be a paragon of clarity,” the judges wrote. “But that did not prevent the district court or the Google defendants from understanding the basis of Inform’s core antitrust claims.”
The decision comes in a lawsuit dating to November of 2019, when Inform alleged in a 100-plus page complaint that Google engaged in anti-competitive conduct, including by discontinuing Adobe Flash in favor of HTML5 in Chrome and YouTube.
“Flash was superior in many respects and Google’s primary reason for wanting to marginalize Flash was Google’s lack of control over Abode’s proprietary product,” Inform alleged.
The company added that it garnered more than $100 million in revenue for online ad services between 2014 and 2016, but was effectively put out of business after 2016.
The ad-tech company said that in 2015, Google began automatically converting Flash campaigns to HTML5 when advertisers uploaded ads through one of Google’s ad offerings, or through third-party tools that “work with” Google’s ad platforms.
“As a result, advertisers that had creatives supported by Adobe Flash were faced with the Hobson’s choice of converting their content to HTML5 or, alternatively, migrating to the Google network to reach target users,” Inform alleged.
The result, according to Inform, was that Google allegedly “syphoned off customers from Inform and other competitors and hundreds of online advertisers and publishers withered and died, while Google and YouTube plundered valuable video advertisements that had supported publishers’ websites.”
Google had urged the 11th Circuit to refuse to revive the claims, arguing that the lawsuit “is a scattershot attempt to manufacture a far-reaching antitrust case.”
Google argued that the complaint, “stripped of the sprawling and conclusory allegations,” alleges only that Inform was harmed “by the industrywide transition from Flash … to HTML5.”
Inform isn’t the only company suing Google over antitrust claims. The company also faces antitrust lawsuits by state attorneys general, federal regulators, advertisers, publishers, app developers and others, including online video service Rumble.
Late last month, a federal judge allowed Rumble, favored by some prominent right-wing figures, to proceed with a claim that Google violates antitrust laws by promoting YouTube in the search results, and by installing the app on Android devices.