Judge clears way for DOJ’s big case against Google to go to trial

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge said the Department of Justice’s landmark case alleging Google’s dominance over the online search business is anti-competitive can go ahead, throwing out some of the government’s claims but ruling that a trial is still necessary.

Google had asked for the judge to make a ruling before the trial, which is scheduled for September. Some of the government’s claims, including those put together by a consortium of state attorneys general that argued the way Google designed its search engine page was unfairly harming competitors like Yelp, were dismissed.

But the allegations that Google’s overall business practices constitute a monopoly that violates the 1890 Sherman Act still deserve a trial, the judge said.

The trial will be a major test for Google and the massive business empire it has assembled over the past two decades. The company is still the dominant portal to the internet, exercising immense power over what people see online. The case is the culmination of one of many antitrust investigations launched against Google and other Big Tech companies over the last several years.

“People have more ways than ever to access information, and they choose to use Google because it’s helpful. We look forward to showing at trial that promoting and distributing our services is both legal and pro-competitive,” said Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs and chief legal officer.

The DOJ didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The trial will begin in the midst of a boom in generative AI — a wave of new technology that has been pushed by Google’s competitors and has thrown the company onto its back foot. Google executives have already begun arguing that the rise of AI companies like OpenAI shows that the tech world is still competitive and that the company doesn’t have an unfair grip on who wins and who loses, as some antitrust experts and the company’s competitors have argued.