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Google settles smaller lawsuits as it prepares for more antitrust fights| GuyWhoKnowsThings

In December, Google spent $700 million to resolve claims by states that its Play Store had forced app makers to impose high fees and harsh conditions. About six weeks after that, Google paid $350 million to settle a lawsuit that accused it of improperly sharing private user information.

On Monday morning, a Massachusetts company called Singular Computing said had been resolved his lawsuit with Google, which involved allegations that the tech giant had stolen his chip designs. Singular said in a press release that it had “entered into a patent licensing and settlement agreement with Google.”

Google is also close to reaching a fourth legal settlement in three months to end accusations that it has misrepresented the privacy settings of its Chrome web browser.

In just a few months, Google has spent more than $1 billion to set the stage for lawsuits that could prove far more damaging to the company and could reshape the entire Internet industry: two federal lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice, Targeted at Google search engine and its advertising business.

The Justice Department accused Google of manipulating the search market through preferential agreements with phone makers such as Apple and Samsung. The company will return to court in May to present its final arguments in what will likely be the biggest legal test for a technology company since United States v. Microsoft more than two decades ago.

In the other federal lawsuit, expected to go to trial in September, the Justice Department said Google “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad technology industry” by taking control of a wide range of tools that advertisers relied on. and publishers to buy and sell. advertisements. Google has denied wrongdoing in both cases, saying its search engine promotes online competition and that its advertising technology has provided a financial lifeline to publishers and other online businesses.

Google said in a statement that it was not clearing the way for future litigation and had won dozens of cases in US courts last year.

“When it makes sense, we reach agreements to avoid lengthy, uncertain and costly litigation,” said José Castañeda, a Google spokesman. “And when we need to stand up for ourselves and the industry, we do it.”

The Justice Department could ask the court to ban Google's preferential agreements with browser makers, and could argue that its search engine distribution platforms, such as the Chrome browser or the Android operating system, should be spun off from the company. .

The department has already argued that Google should be forced to spin off its advertising technology unit, to reduce the advertising industry's dependence on the company. Any divestiture would be a costly and time-consuming process, eroding the company's revenue and influence.

Most of the recent settlements also followed the company's surprising loss to Epic Games, the creator of the hit game Fortnite, in a high-profile trial in December. Epic had claimed that Google undermined competition from app makers through high fees and strict rules, and a San Francisco jury agreed. Google has begun its appeal of the verdict, but a federal judge may order the company to accept more payment methods and app stores on the Android mobile operating system.

Douglas Melamed, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, said that “in this time of pretty dramatic changes in regulatory and legal risk for all of these big tech platforms,” ​​Google may be thinking it's time to settle smaller cases.” so we don't do it.” “We don't have it hanging over us.”

Google's patent case with Singular revolved around some of the company's most important chips used to run artificial intelligence, called Tensor Processing Units. Singular had said that its founder, Joseph Bates, met with Google from 2010 to 2014 and discussed its chip designs. Years later, Google's TPUs infringed two of Dr. Bates' patents, argued singular when he filed his lawsuit at the end of 2019.

Singular has cited an email from Jeff Dean, Google's chief scientist, in which he wrote that Singular's designs fit “very well” with Google's chip initiatives. The parties agreed to settle in January.

Singular had requested $1.67 billion in damages. The companies declined to comment on the financial terms of their deal. In its statement, Singular said Google agreed to a patent license. The technology giant did not admit to being at fault.

“As we demonstrated in court, Singular's patent does not apply to our Tensor Processing Units, which were independently designed and built by Google engineers using Google technology over many years,” said spokesman Mr. Castañeda. of Google.

Dr. Bates, founder of Singular, said the company's goal was to equip universities with supercomputers, which it hopes “can help limit the concentration of power that AI provides to big tech companies.”

In the $700 million settlement with the attorneys general of all 50 states, Google agreed to allow app makers to offer their own billing systems and app stores on Android devices. But most importantly, Google can continue to charge fees to large companies regardless of how consumers pay, although app makers get a discount for processing their own transactions. If the states' claims had not been resolved, they would have been heard during the Epic trial.

In December, Google said it would settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged its private browsing tab settings in Chrome, called incognito mode, were not very private. The lawsuit said Google had misled users by continuing to track their online activity in incognito mode.

The case had already generated negative headlines for Google, including the revelation that its chief marketing officer, Lorraine Twohill, wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, complaining that incognito mode was difficult to market because it was “not truly private, so it really required confusing and evasive language that is almost more damaging.”

A federal judge in California ordered Google to pay penalties for missing discovery deadlines, allowing it to cover some of the legal bills for plaintiffs' attorneys, led by prominent attorney David Boies. Google said in a statement that it had “cooperated with a thorough discovery.” A trial was scheduled to begin in early February and would have provided more revelations about Google through evidence and testimony. The company said in December it would settle the case, and an official settlement is expected to be reached this month.

“We settled because we basically got what we could have gotten if we had gone to trial and won,” Boies said in an interview.

In February, Google said it would pay $350 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over a privacy violation on its defunct social media site, Google+. The service had inadvertently given developers access to user information between 2015 and 2018. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2018, and Google was accused of hiding the problem from users and regulators even after it had fixed the problem.

The company had reached a settlement with Google+ users for $7.5 million in 2020, but the shareholder lawsuit persisted. Google had tried several times to have the case dismissed, including in 2022, when it unsuccessfully asked the Supreme Court to intervene. In the end, the only way to make the case go away was to reach a settlement.

In several of these cases, Google may have had to pay more money in damages than it did if it had stayed in court, Melamed and other legal experts said.

“The problem with litigation is that every time you go to court, there is an 80 percent chance that anything could happen, including getting arrested,” Melamed said, recalling the words of a friend. “It's so unpredictable.”

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