Google Loses Bid to Delay U.K. Trial Until After EU Probe

Google Inc. lost a bid to delay proceedings in a London antitrust case until after the resolution of a European Union investigation triggered by the same company that filed the U.K. lawsuit.

Judge Peter Roth told Google in a ruling today to provide Foundem, a shopping comparison website, with documents related to four of five allegations in the lawsuit. Google, based in Mountain View, California, had argued that further European Commission findings might negate some of Foundem’s claims.

Postponing disclosure until after an eventual decision by the EU “and potential appeals, would cause several years’ delay,” Roth said.

Foundem’s complaint to EU regulators that Google stifles innovation for so-called vertical search services helped spur an almost three-year-old antitrust investigation into whether the world’s largest search engine discriminates against rivals in its search results. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia last week said he wrote to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to ask the company to improve its settlement offer.

Lawyers at Google’s law firm, Bristows LLP, declined to comment. Jenny Craig, an outside spokeswoman for Google, declined to immediately comment.

Foundem sued Google a year ago in London, arguing it had been penalized in Google’s search results because it offers a competing shopping comparison service.

Roth told both Google and Foundem, citing statistics from the EU probe, to prepare for a trial based on an assumption that Google was the dominant provider in the search market. He also said that if Google won on Foundem’s claim that the company abused its position, the rest of the case would be dismissed.

Foundem is a member of ICOMP, a Brussels-based industry coalition that includes Microsoft Corp., owner of the Bing search engine.

Lawyers representing Foundem didn’t immediately comment.

The case is Infederation v. Google, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, No. HC12A02489.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.