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Google, Microsoft Sort of Square off

Google and Microsoft squared off, indirectly, on Wednesday over whether the Federal Trade Commission should pursue Google for allegedly engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

Former Justice Department antitrust official Charles "Rick" Rule, a partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft who advises Microsoft, argued that while he opposed the Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft, tech companies today must be subject to the same scrutiny applied to Microsoft.

Former FTC Chairman James Miller, a senior adviser with Husch Blackwell who is advising Google on antitrust matters, countered that regulators need to pursue restraint when it comes to the dynamic and changing tech sector.

The FTC is currently investigating whether Google is using its dominance in the search market to favor its own products and services in its search results.

"If you look at some of the people who are today supporting Google and saying you shouldn't apply the laws to them, they are the same people who were most out front in terms of arguing back in the 1990s that the antitrust laws ought to be applied to Microsoft," said Rule, who like Miller stressed he was speaking on his own and not on behalf of his client. "At the time, I was fighting that proposition. I lost. The courts ...established the rules. They're there now. ... The rules have to be applied nondiscriminatory. They have to be applied even handedly."

Miller questioned whether Google really has monopoly power in the search market given the ease with which consumers can switch to another search engine. Still, he argued that when tech companies do have such power, it tends to disappear.

Antitrust enforcement of the tech industry "would not only be misguided, it could very well make one of America's leading industries one of the world's laggards," Miller warned during the event sponsored by the conservative legal think tank the Federalist Society.

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