A US judge has set a tentative date in 2023 for the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Google, an indication of how long the landmark proceedings are likely to take.
US District Judge Amit Mehta suggested a trial date of 12 September, 2023 during a status conference with the DOJ and Google on Friday, with the two sides registering no objections.
Mehta said the two sides appeared to expect pre-trial discovery to last for more than a full year, up to March 2022, and for other pre-trial matters to take up the rest of that year, concluding in early 2023.
That suggested a trial date of the late summer or early autumn of 2023, Mehta said.
Discovery is the process by which the two sides in a case obtains evidence from the other party and from third parties, and can take an extended period in complex cases.
At the meeting the two sides began the process of at least partly consolidating the federal government’s case with one that 38 US states and territories filed last week.
The states’ case is broader than that of the DOJ, alleging that Google made efforts to illegally extend its search dominance into devices such as speakers, televisions and automobiles.
The Justice Department’s case, meanwhile, focuses on Google’s alleged abuse of its dominant position in search and search advertising. Google denies wrongdoing.
Google and the Justice Department indicated they are close to concluding arrangements for handling confidential information disclosed to the government by third-party companies, which Google wants to access.
Those arrangements could be completed this week, they said. The next status hearing is set for 21 January.
The DOJ suggested its actual trial against Google could last from 10 to 12 weeks, while Google said it expects it to take much less time, assuming the case goes to trial. Mehta said the trial could last more or less than five and a half weeks.
The court’s tentative trial date is the first concrete indication of how long the antitrust procedure is likely to take, with Google and its business practices likely to remain in the spotlight during that time.
The company, along with Facebook and other major tech firms, has faced growing pressure from regulators in the US, the EU and elsewhere.
The European Union, for instance, introduced the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act draft regulations last week that aim to impose stricter controls on the biggest tech companies.
Google is currently facing three antitrust lawsuits in the US from the federal government and different groups of states, while Facebook was hit by two separate competition lawsuits from the US trade regulator, the FTC, and 48 states and territories earlier this month.
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