U.S. antitrust case against Google mirrors Microsoft battle

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, file photo, the logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the entrance hall of Google France in Paris. The Trump administration's legal assault on Google actually feels like a blast from the past. The U.S. Justice Department filed an equally high-profile case against a technology giant in 1998. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration's legal assault on Google actually feels like a blast from the past.

The U.S. Justice Department filed an equally high-profile case against a technology giant in 1998, accusing it of leveraging a monopoly position to lock customers into its products so they wouldn't be tempted by potentially superior options from smaller rivals.

That game-changing case, of course, targeted Microsoft and its personal computer software empire -- right around the same time that two ambitious entrepreneurs, both strident Microsoft critics, were starting up their own company with a funny name: Google.

Now things have come full circle with a lawsuit that deliberately echoes the U.S.-Microsoft showdown that unfolded under the administrations of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.

“Back then, Google claimed Microsoft’s practices were anticompetitive, and yet, now, Google deploys the same playbook to sustain its own monopolies,” the Justice Department wrote in its lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., federal court.

The Justice Department’s 64-page complaint accuses Google of thwarting competition and potential innovation via its market power and financial muscle. In particular, the U.S. complaint alleges, Google sought to ensure its search engine and advertising network remained in a position to reach as many people as possible while making it nearly impossible for viable challengers to emerge.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen described Google as “the gateway to the internet" and a search advertising behemoth. Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, controls about 90% of global web searches.

The Mountain View, California, company, vehemently denied any wrongdoing and defended its services as a boon for consumers — a position it said it will fiercely defend in a case that seems likely to culminate in a trial late next year or sometime in 2022.