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April 7, 2010 3:34 PM

Sources: Cleary Nabs Google Antitrust Work in AdMob Flap

Posted by Zach Lowe

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has secured the role as lead counsel for Google in what appears to be a pretty pitched battle between the search giant and the Federal Trade Commission over Google's proposed $750 million acquisition of mobile advertising firm AdMob, according to two sources familiar with the matter. 

Cleary partner David Gelfand is leading the firm's team advising Google on the matter, according to the sources. Gelfand did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The FTC is leaning toward recommending that the government block the deal, which Google announced in November, according to Reuters. The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that the FTC has readied a group of litigators to fight the proposed acquisition. Regulators are concerned that Google could lock up a dominant position for itself in the mobile phone ad market by acquiring AdMob, which supplies ads for Apple's iPhone and other smartphones, according to the WSJ. 

Google has argued that it is premature to suggest any acquisition would squelch competition in the still-developing mobile ad sector, the WSJ reports. Google has also pointed out that Apple recently acquired the mobile ad company Quattro Wireless, a smaller AdMob competitor, the WSJ says. Google lawyers are meeting with FTC staffers to press their case for the deal. 

Cleary has been down this antitrust road with Google before. The firm, along with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, advised Google on its unsuccessful battle with antitrust regulators over its proposed 2008 advertising partnership with Yahoo!. (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Latham & Watkins, and Hunton & Williams advised Yahoo! in the same matter, while Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft represented Microsoft, which opposed the tie-up, according to our prior reporting). Google abandoned the deal after the Justice Department indicated it would move to block the tie-up. 

In other (potentially bad) legal news for Google, the company suddenly faces a new hurdle in its effort to create a massive digital book database--an effort that has already run into too many roadblocks to count, according to The New York Times. Google competitors, including Amazon, have expressed antitrust concerns over the proposed database (concerns the DOJ echoed) and various rights holders have taken issue with Google's plans to scan so-called orphan works, for which copyright owners cannot easily be located, according to our prior reporting. The Authors Guild (represented by Boni & Zack) and the Association of American Publishers (represented by Debevoise & Plimpton) filed suit in 2005 to stop the creation of Google Books, but the parties eventually reached a tentative settlement under which Google could created its digital database--only to have a federal judge hold up that settlement. Talks about the proposed database are ongoing.

Now a group of photographers and artists have filed an eleventh-hour lawsuit to stop the creation of Google Books, according to the NYT. The suit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan, makes IP claims similar to those in the initial Authors Guild suit, the NYT reports. The law firm Mishcon de Reya is filing the suit--a proposed class action--on behalf of the American Society of Media Photographers and other groups, the firm said.

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