By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - An antitrust lawsuit targeting Google's Android operating system should be dismissed, Google said in a court filing on Friday, partly because smartphone manufacturers are free to utilize Android on their phones without also installing Google apps.
Two smartphone customers filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Google Inc in May, arguing that the way Google licenses Android to smartphone companies like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is unfair to Google's competitors for search and other mobile services.
The lawsuit is the latest antitrust issue confronting Google, which has faced complaints from rivals including Microsoft Corp that it unfairly ranked its own services higher than competitors' in search results. A proposed settlement with European regulators on that issue is pending.
In the U.S. lawsuit, plaintiff lawyers had argued that Google forces phone manufacturers to set its own search engine as the default on Android phones. Google knows consumers will not go through the trouble of changing those default settings, the lawsuit said, putting competitors at an unfair disadvantage given Android's global market share.
"Google badly wants default search engine status because it results in more paid search-related advertisements," the lawsuit said, "which are the source of most of its billions and billions of dollars in annual profits."
But in a filing on Friday in San Jose, California, federal court, Google argued that the U.S. class action should fail because handset manufacturers are not obligated to accept Google apps as a precondition for using Android.
Additionally, if a phone manufacturer does opt to install Google apps, they can still preload competing apps as well. Consumers, moreover, are free to customize their own phones and replace Google search as the default.
"Google's conduct is not only fully consistent with but actually promotes lawful competition," the company wrote.
Google also argued that the lawsuit failed to show how Google's agreements with handset manufacturers caused consumers to overpay for their phones.
An attorney for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment. A hearing on the motion to dismiss is currently scheduled for October.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Gary Feitelson and Daniel McKee, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated vs. Google Inc, 14-2007.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)