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Sayre v. Google, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 14, 2019

PAUL JOSEPH SAYRE, Plaintiff,
v.
GOOGLE, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

          William Alsup United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         In this pro se antitrust action, plaintiff accuses defendant of using its monopoly power to suppress competition. Defendant moves to dismiss all claims. The motion to dismiss is Granted.

         STATEMENT

         Plaintiff Paul Joseph Sayre is the owner and creator of RDevice. In 2009, Sayre filed a provisional patent on messenger technology for RDevice. In 2010, he filed a formal patent application and launched RDevice as a web and mobile messenger developed to work on defendant Google's Android mobile operating system. Sayre alleges that RDevice had many features that directly competed with Google in the communication and social space because it was one of the first messengers ever launched (Dkt. No. 58 at 2).

         Google Play is the primary method for installing applications on Android devices; Google automatically blocks devices from downloading apps from any other source. RDevice is an app designed specifically for Android smart phones and will not work on another operating system without completely reprogramming the software code. Users may install RDevice without Google Play by overriding the device security features but losing automatic updates. This may be disconcerting to some users and could expose the device to malware or hackers (Dkt. No. 1 at 6).

         Sayre sought to utilize Google's mobile app distribution platform, Google Play, and Google's web search engine, Google Web, to access users for his messenger app. He alleges RDevice has been removed from Google Play numerous times and denied any attempts to reverse the decision. Additionally, RDevice does not appear in the category search results for messengers while published in Google Play and only appears near the end of the list if it is specifically searched. As a result, RDevice has one of the lowest installation records and essentially does not exist. Sayre blames this all on Google's alleged monopoly on app distribution with Google Play and Android (Dkt. No. 58 at 3).

         Sayre contends that Google targeted RDevice specifically because it was one of the first messengers ever launched and included a patent application. He states that other messengers grew simply because they were found on Google Play. The value of messengers is based on user acquisition rather than revenue. Sayre speculates that RDevice would amount to $1.6 billion had it reached its full market potential, similar to the value of others in the same space (Dkt. No. 58 at 4-5).

         Based on the above, Sayre alleges that Google “engaged in antitrust behavior” and seeks relief for monopolization. This claim will be construed as a claim under Section 2 of the Sherman Act because the absence of other conspiring parties makes a Section 1 claim inconceivable. He also claims a violation of Section 17200 of California's Unfair Competition Law. Sayre seeks $1.6 billion in compensatory damages for loss of capital, revenue, market value, and userbase, as well as punitive damages and injunctive relief (id. at 2-5).

         These claims were originally filed in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas, which transferred the case here. Although a prior order requested Sayre to file an amended complaint by August 14, 2019 (Dkt. No. 52), he did not file it until August 26, 2019 (Dkt. No. 58). Google now moves to dismiss the amended complaint. A hearing was calendared on November 7, 2019. Sayre did not appear when the case was called. As a courtesy, the hearing was then moved to the end of the calendar, but Sayre never appeared. Google agreed to submit on the papers. This order follows full briefing (Dkt. Nos. 69, 73, 75).

         ANALYSIS

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009) (quotations omitted). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. Plausibility requires pleading facts, as opposed to conclusory allegations or the “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, (2007), and must rise above the mere conceivability or possibility of unlawful conduct that entitles the pleader to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. at 678 (citation and quotation omitted). Nor is it enough that the complaint is “factually neutral”; rather, it must be “factually suggestive.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 n.5.

         1. Monopoly Maintenance Under Section 2 of the Sherman Act.

         Section 2 of the Sherman Act prohibits monopolization, attempted monopolization, and conspiracies to monopolize. More specifically, Section 2 provides that anyone who attempts “to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony . . . .” 15 U.S.C. § 2. To successfully claim a Section 2 violation, Sayre must establish: (1) antitrust injury; (2) possession of monopoly power in a relevant market; and (3) ...


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