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Microsoft Files Antitrust Complaint Against Google in E.U. Court

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A decade after fighting a major antitrust lawsuit, Microsoft has filed exactly the same charges against Google. Today, the company will file a formal antitrust complaint with the European Union, joining a collection of small companies that have already made similar charges against the search giant.

Microsoft is hoping that the E.U. will take some action against Google, and perhaps convince regulators in the U.S to do the same. In Europe, several small Internet firms have filed charges against Google, arguing that the company's search engine unfairly favors its own products, thereby hindering competition.

Microsoft is specifically arguing against Google's indexing practices. Google's most egregious offense, Microsoft claims, is prohibiting competitors from using and indexing data from properties that the company controls. Its also taking issue with Google's ad contracts, and technical information on smartphone apps that the company has allegedly withheld from competitors. For its part, Google denies Microsoft's claims, and insists that its policy does not keep competing firms from using its data or technology.

The irony in Microsoft's case is pretty obvious, but it's also pretty symbolic. Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, says the lawsuit only underscores how suddenly the tide can turn in tech markets. "It doesn't happen instantly, but it does happen faster than in most industries," Professor Cusumano told the New York Times. "It took Google about a decade to really turn the tables on Microsoft."

But Microsoft is dead serious about taking Google to task for its allegedly unlawful business practices. Bradley L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, pointed out some hypocrisy in Google's mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

"That is a laudable goal," Smith told the Times. "But it appears Google's practice is to prevent others from doing the same thing. That is unlawful and it raises serious antitrust issues." According to Smith, Google simply wants to "wall off content so that it cannot be crawled and searched by competing companies."

It remains unclear, though, whether or not Microsoft's European crusade could make ripples on the other side of the Atlantic. Texas's attorney general is already conducting an antitrust investigation into Google, and several other states are interested in doing the same. But in Europe, Microsoft faces a very different landscape.

"The search market in Europe is substantially less competitive than it is in the U.S.," Smith said, adding that Microsoft is looking to make major European investments. "But if we're going to get a more competitive market there, European regulators are also going to have to take steps to establish a level playing field.

Tags: advertising, antitrust, Bing, business, EuropeanUnion, google, lawsuit, Microsoft, money, politics, search, top, Web, youtube