Posts with «company legal & law matters» label

Google files motion to dismiss four charges in antitrust lawsuit

Google has filed a motion to dismiss most of an ad tech-focused antitrust lawsuit brought forward by a group of state attorneys general. It has requested that a federal court dismiss four of the six charges with prejudice, which would prevent them from being brought back to the same court.

"The complaint misrepresents our business, products and motives, and we are moving to dismiss it based on its failure to offer plausible antitrust claims," Adam Cohen, Google's director of economic policy, wrote in a blog post. The company says the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of wrongdoing for several of their allegations and that much of the suit "is based on outdated information that bears no correlation to our current products or business in this dynamic industry (and in any event never amounted to a violation of antitrust laws)."

The AGs, who are led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, claimed Google abused its power to shore up its position in the online ads market. They said the company agreed a "sweetheart deal" in 2018 that gave Facebook parent Meta a boost in ad header bidding (a type of tech allows publishers to solicit bids from multiple ad exchanges simultaneously) in exchange for support for Google's Open Bidding method of selling ads.

Google said the deal was above board and that it wasn't a secret, as Facebook Audience Network (FAN) was one of several partners for its Open Bidding program. Cohen said the deal "does not provide FAN with an advantage in the Open Bidding auction. FAN competes in the auction just like other bidders: FAN must make the highest bid to win a given impression, period. If another eligible network or exchange bids higher, they win the auction."

The AGs also alleged that Google harnessed at least three programs to manipulate ad auctions. The aim, according to the states, was to push publishers and advertisers into using the company's own tools.

"State Plaintiffs respond to Google’s success by seeking to compel Google to share with its competitors the fruits of its investments and innovation," Google wrote in its filing. "They criticize Google for not designing its products to better suit its rivals’ needs and for making improvements to those products that leave its competitors too far behind. They see the 'solution' to Google’s success as holding Google back, rather than letting market forces urge its competitors forward."

As Reuters notes, the two other charges in the suit are based on state law and were stayed in September. Although Google hasn't asked for those to be dismissed, it reserved the right to make that request at a later date.

Court orders persistent 'Roblox' troll to stay off the platform

A court in California has ordered Benjamin Robert Simon to pay $150,000 in damages to the creator of Roblox, reports Polygon. Roblox Corporation sued Simon in November, accusing the YouTuber of harassing its player base and repeatedly skirting its efforts to keep him off the platform. At the time, the company initially sought $1.65 million in damages from Simon.

Roblox Corporation’s allegations against Simon, who is better known as Ruben Sim on YouTube, were numerous. The company said it had originally banned him from Roblox for using homophobic and racist slurs, as well as sexually harassing other players and uploading photos of Adolf Hitler.

The court ordered Simon to stay off the platform. He has also agreed not to make or publish “false threats of terrorist activity relating to Roblox.” One of the most serious accusations the game’s developer leveled against Simon was that he posted “false and misleading terrorist threats” that led to a temporary shutdown of the 2021 Roblox Developers Conference in San Francisco. The company claims it cost $50,000 to investigate the threat and secure the venue.

Simon has also been ordered not to go near the company’s offices. In its original complaint, Roblox Corporation accused Simon of glamorizing a 2018 shooting incident at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California, and threatening a copycat act of violence at its own office in nearby San Mateo.

Simon told Polygon he plans to upload a video about the complaint on his YouTube channel sometime in the “next couple months.” The Roblox Corporation declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

Israeli police reportedly used Pegasus spyware to conduct domestic surveillance

Israeli police have employed NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to extract data from phones belonging to Israeli citizens, according to an investigation by the country’s Calcalist business publication. Police reportedly used the controversial software to target a number of individuals, including politicians and members of an activist group that had called for the removal of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to the report, Israeli police conducted their surveillance without court supervision, a claim both police and public officials deny.

“All police activity in this field is done in accordance with the law, on the basis of court orders and strict work procedures,” Israeli Police said. The Washington Post reports Omer Bar-Lev, the country’s country’s public security minister, said an initial investigation had found no evidence of a “secretive wiretapping” program but promised a judge would check everything “thoroughly and unequivocally.”

“We would like to clarify that the company does not operate the systems in its customers’ possession and is not involved in their operation,” NSO Group said in a statement the company shared with Israeli media. “The company sells its products under license and supervision for the use of security bodies and state law enforcement agencies, to prevent crime and terrorism legally, and according to court orders and local law in each country.”

Per The Guardian, Israeli law only allows Shin Bet, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, to hack a phone without a court order. What’s more, the only context in which the agency is allowed to carry out such an action is to prevent a terrorist attack involving Palestinians, Israeli-Arabs or Israeli-Jews. Approval from a senior Shin Bet official or the attorney general’s office is also required. No such exemption exists for the country’s police service. However, according to Calcalist, the software wasn’t directly covered by Israel’s existing laws.

The report comes a month after Reuters found the Pegasus spyware had been used to target at least nine US State Department officials. In that instance, an unknown assailant had used the software to target federal employees who were either stationed in Uganda or whose work involved the African country. NSO has claimed its software can’t target devices linked to American or Israeli phone numbers. 

Walmart may offer a cryptocurrency and NFTs

Walmart apparently doesn't want to be left out of the crypto rush. CNBC has learned Walmart filed several trademark applications with the USPTO in late December for selling virtual goods, and in another filing said it would provide a cryptocurrency as well as NFTs. While the documents don't necessarily guarantee action, trademark attorney Josh Gerben told CNBC the trademarks were highly detailed — Walmart was clearly thinking about how it would tackle digital currencies and products.

We've asked Walmart for comment. The company was purposefully all-encompassing with its virtual goods trademark, effectively giving it the option to sell NFT counterparts to the physical items it sells.

It wouldn't be strange for Walmart to dip into cryptocurrencies or NFTs. After Facebook changed its name to Meta and signaled its intention to foster metaverses, there has been a rush among major brands to enter the space with currencies, NFTs or both. Adidas, Nike, Gap and other well-known names have started selling NFTs and hinted at intentions to create virtual spaces. Walmart might not want to risk missing out if this trend lasts, even if it's not in a hurry to join early adopters.

Apple faces class action lawsuit over Powerbeats Pro charging issues

Apple is facing another lawsuit over Powerbeats battery trouble. New York resident Alejandro Vivar has filed a potential class action lawsuit over allegations Powerbeats Pro design defects prevents the wireless earbuds from charging properly. As it's reportedly too easy to lose contact between the buds and their charging case, one of the earpieces either won't charge "consistently" or quickly drain its charge. Apple committed fraud by misrepresenting battery life and failing to address issues it supposedly knew about, the plaintiff said.

Vivar's attorneys suggest a combination of the case design and an insufficiently sturdy ear "gasket" (the piece that goes into your ear) may be responsible. Customers have had to resort to inserting a "wedge" to keep the charging pins in contact, according to the lawsuit. The lawyers also reject Apple's claims the Powerbeats Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, arguing that sweat corrodes the charging contacts.

The lawsuit calls for Apple to "correct" the situation, compensate affected users and pay unspecified damages. If the lawsuit is fully certified as a class action, it would cover both New York customers as well as those in Georgia, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Virginia.

We've asked Apple for comment. As with many such lawsuits, there's no certainty it will reach class action status or lead to compensation. And don't expect a windfall even if the case succeeds — with some exceptions, class actions tend to result in small payouts. If anything, the lawsuit may do more to affect design choices than Powerbeats Pro buyers' bank accounts.

California judge says Google's non-disclosure agreements violate state law

Google may have to rethink its non-disclosure agreements following a long-running lawsuit from an anonymous worker. According to The Washington Post, a California Superior Court judge has ruled that Google's employee confidentiality agreements violate state labor laws. Terms banning the employee from discussing his job with potential employers amounted to a non-compete clause and were thus illegal in the state, the judge said.

The internet company originally persuaded a judge to toss out most of the worker's claims in the belief federal law overrode California legislation. An appeals court overturned that decision, however, noting that state laws did more to protect free speech rights that included work experience. Google has declined to comment on either the verdict or any plans to appeal.

The outcome wouldn't let Google employees discuss trade secrets if it was upheld. It would let people discuss work experience, though, and could make it easier for job-seekers to switch roles without fear of lawsuits. It might also provide more opportunities for sexual assault and harassment victims to discuss their reasons for leaving a company, although California legislation has already tackled non-disclosure agreements that bar victims from talking about incidents.

 This ruling might also have wider repercussions for California's tech sector. QH Law partner Ramsey Hanafi told the Post that many large tech companies have similar gag rules. Like it or not, Silicon Valley firms might have to revamp their agreements and accept that it will be easier for staff to leave or identify toxic work cultures.

Meta hit with $3.2 billion class action suit over alleged exploitation of UK Facebook users

A legal expert has teamed with a litigation firm to sue Meta on behalf of 44 million Facebook users in the UK, claiming that they had their data exploited in violation of competition laws, TechCrunch has reported. The firm is seeking £2.3 billion ($3.1 billion) in damages for UK Facebook users. 

The lawsuit was filed by competition law specialist Dr. Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, and is being funded by Innsworth, a law firm that takes on cases in exchange for a share of damages won. It claims that even though users don't pay to use Facebook, they surrender data that has considerable value. 

"They are exploiting users by taking their personal data without properly compensating them for taking that data," Lovdahl Gormsen said in a statement. "I don’t think the users are entirely clear when they click on the terms and conditions how unfair that deal is." 

She added that Facebook has become "the sole social network in the UK where you could be sure to connect with friends and family in one place." And even as it locked users into its ecosystem (which includes WhatsApp and Instagram), it was tracking users across other websites as well. "It abused its market dominance to impose unfair terms and conditions on ordinary Britons giving it the power to exploit their personal data," according to Lovdahl Gormsen. 

The lawsuit covers the period from October 2015 to December 31st, 2019. It's an "opt-out" class action lawsuit, meaning that users will not need to take any action to receive damages in the case, unless they decide to opt out. 

"People access our service for free. They choose our services because we deliver value for them and they have meaningful control of what information they share on Meta’s platforms and who with. We have invested heavily to create tools that allow them to do so," a Meta spokesperson told The Guardian in a statement. 

Facebook already had a hit of bad news this week in the US, as a Federal judge said an antitrust suit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Facebook could move forward. The FTC wants to force Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp, accusing it of engaging in "anti-competitive conduct" against rivals. 

PayPal faces lawsuit for freezing customer accounts and funds

Three PayPal users who've allegedly had their accounts frozen and funds taken by the company without explanation have filed a federal lawsuit against the online payment service. The plaintiffs — two users from California and one from Chicago — are accusing the company of unlawfully seizing their personal property and violating racketeering laws. They're now proposing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all other users who've had their accounts frozen before and are seeking restitution, as well as punitive and exemplary damages.

Lena Evans, one of the plaintiffs who'd been a PayPal user for 22 years, said the website seized $26,984 from her account six months after it got frozen without ever telling her why. Evans had been using PayPal to buy and sell clothing on eBay, to exchange money for a poker league she owns and for a non-profit that helps women with various needs. 

Fellow plaintiff Roni Shemtov said PayPal seized over $42,000 of her money and never got an acceptable reason for why her account was terminated. She received several different explanations when she contacted the company: One customer rep said it was because she used the same IP and computer as other Paypal users, while another said it was because she sold yoga clothing at 20 to 30 percent lower than retail. Yet another representative allegedly said it was because she used multiple accounts, which she denies. 

Shbadan Akylbekov, the third plaintiff, said PayPal seized over $172,000 of his money without giving him any explanation why the account got limited in the first place. Akylbekov used the account of a company his wife owns to sell Hyaluron pens, which are needle-less pens that inject hyaluronic acid into the skin. After the money disappeared from the account following a six-month freeze, PayPal allegedly sent his wife a letter that says she "violated PayPal's User Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) by accepting payments for the sale of injectable fillers not approved by the FDA." It also said that the money was taken from her account "for its liquidated damages arising from those AUP violations pursuant to the User Agreement."

PayPal has long angered many a user for limiting accounts and freezing their funds for six months or more. One high-profile case was American poker player Chris Moneymaker's who had $12,000 taken from his account after six months of being limited. Moneymaker was already in the process of asking people to join him in a class action lawsuit before his funds were "mysteriously returned." 

Part of the complaint reads:

"Plaintiffs bring this class action against Defendant PAYPAL, INC. ("PayPal") to recover damages and other relief available at law and in equity on behalf of themselves, as well as on behalf of the members of the class defined herein... This action stems from Defendant’s widespread business practice of unilaterally seizing funds from its clients’ financial accounts, without cause and without any fair or due process.

PayPal places a "hold" on Plaintiffs' own funds in their own PayPal accounts. PayPal has failed to inform Plaintiffs and members of the class of the reason(s) for the actions PayPal has taken, even telling Plaintiffs and members of the class that they will "have to get a subpoena" to learn the simple information as to why PayPal was holding, and denying Plaintiffs, access to their own money."

'PUBG Mobile' maker sues copycat game and app stores that hosted it

When you're the progenitor of an entire gaming genre and holding the reigns of a billion dollar intellectual property, imitation, it turns out, is not the sincerest form of flattery. It's the sort of thing that gets you dragged into US federal court. And that's exactly what Krafton, maker of PUBG Mobile, is doing to Garena Online over accusations that the Singapore-based game developer has once again infringed its battle royale IP. What's more, Krafton has named Google and Apple in its complaint.

This isn't the first time that Krafton has sued Garena Online. In 2017, Krafton filed suit in Singapore over the sale of Free Fire: Battlegrounds, Garena's suspiciously PUBG-like mobile shooter, but ended up settling that case. Now, Krafton is suing Garena again, over Free Fire again, but this time in US federal court.

Krafton alleges that after settling in 2017, Garena immediately resumed selling Free Fire on both Google Play and the Apple App Store without entering into any sort of licencing agreement to use the litigated game content. Additionally, Garena started selling of another battle royale game of questionable copyright pedigree, Free Fire Max, this past September. As such, Krafton is suing Garena for copyright infringement claiming that “Garena has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from its global sales of the infringing apps," and holding both the Google and Apple marketplaces liable for damages for hosting the content. Krafton, which is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, has not specified damages outside of a statutory $150,000 per infringement. 

Copyright infringement claims like this are wildly common throughout the tech industry with legal departments constantly on the prowl for potential IP violations, be they intentional or not. For example, earlier this week, the App Store were inundated with knock-off and clones of the newly-minted hit mobile app, Wordle, prompting Apple to intercede and remove the offending iterations.     

Apple details $30 million settlement for off-the-clock bag search lawsuit

The long-running lawsuit Apple faced over off-the-clock bag searches of its employees in California is almost over. While its final approval hearing won't take place until July, the tech giant has detailed the terms of the $29.9 million settlement it agreed to and provided claimants (and everyone else) access to documents related to the case on its legal website. The list of documents includes everything from the original class action complaint to notices of the settlement to different types of class members. It also includes information on how to get in contact with the settlement administrator.

A group Apple employees sued the company in 2013 for not paying them for the time it took to check their bags during their shifts or when they're leaving for work, which took between five to 20 minutes. They claimed Apple was violating California law by doing so. Apple said bag checks were necessary to ensure workers weren't leaving with stolen goods or trade secrets and tried to argue in court that those who didn't like the policy could simply not bring their bags or their iPhones to work. The company stopped searching employees' bags in 2015. 

While a district court originally tossed the lawsuit, it went to the California Supreme Court on appeal, wherein the judge sided with the plaintiffs. As previously revealed in a court filing, the lawsuit covers 14,683 workers in 52 Apple Stores in California who were subjected to bag checks from July 25th, 2009 until August 10th, 2015. They'll each get $1,286 from the settlement amount.