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Monday, October 23, 2006

Google Lawyers Up (GOOG)(AAPL)(MSFT)

Google is learning the hard lesson that Apple and Microsoft had beat into them earlier. When you get big, you get lawyers.

The list of Micrsoft's big suits ranges from antitrust to patent violations. Its stuggles with the monopoly position of its software in Europe continue. It paid $750 million to settle antitrust issues with Time Warner over the Netscape browser's dismantling at the hands of Internet Explorer. It made a settlement of similar size with RealNetwork's over the monopoly position of the Windows Media Player. The list goes on, and on, and on.

Over at Apple, the company has just settled an antitrust claim over the iPod, paying Singapore-based Creative Technologies $100 million. The Apple 10-K lists 27 legal cases in which Apple is involved.

And, now Google faces suits as diverse as copywrite claims over its use of news material, the way the websites are ranked on Google pages, and trademark infringement. There is an article a day in the press about the issues that Google acquisition YouTube faces over IP problems with some of its content.

Google's other problem is that it has money. Filing a lawsuit against a firm that is poor is usually bad business.

Google's legal issues will probably go one of two ways over time. Apple has largely avoided large lawsuits that damage its business and expansion. On the other hand, Microsoft has had some of its businesses sharply curtailed.

As Microsoft and Apple resolve their legal problems, they can send their lawyers over to Google. At least the attorneys will have had plenty of practice.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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