Adtech startup Unlockd drops Google legal case ahead of winding up proceedings

Marketing startup Unlockd has dropped its legal case against Google as the company faces winding-up moves from its liquidator.

The company, which pushed advertising on users’ phones in return for rewards, went into administration in June after Google moved to block the service from its Android operating system, triggering a legal dispute over what founder Matt Berriman described as ‘unlawful behaviour’ by the US tech giant.

Unlockd founder Matt Berriman slammed Google for ‘unlawful conduct’ in its attempt to block his app from their Android operating system

While Unlockd withdrew its case before the Federal Court on Wednesday, Mumbrella understands parties to the case are still reserving their right to restart the action against Google as they continue to seek litigation funding.

The move to drop the case followed the company’s administrators starting winding up proceedings after a creditors’ meeting earlier this month.

Founded in 2014, Unlockd raised $68m from investors including Lachlan Murdoch, former Seven Group CEO Peter Gammell and Catch of the Day founders Hezi and Gabby Leibovich.

The service displayed ads on Android users’ smartphone lock screens in return for loyalty rewards, but Google said the service breached the terms and conditions of AdMob and Google Play, so threatened to suspend it.

In May, Unlockd won an injunction in the UK High Court preventing Google from banning the service, however at the time the company expressed disappointment at the limited scope of the UK ruling.

Berriman left the company when it went into liquidation and wrote a Medium post expressing his disappointment, saying that the company’s technology was to be acquired by a party which, he said had “taken advantage of that commercial situation, for a tiny amount of the cost of capital that’s been invested.”

To date there has been no evidence of that acquisition happening and Mumbrella has contacted Unlockd’s liquidator, Grath Nichol, for comment.

Google declined to comment on the case, while Berriman and an Unlockd spokesperson were not available.

In his Medium post, Berriman said: “However, importantly by de-merging the technology assets from the company and litigation my fellow Unlockd shareholders and I have all retained our litigation rights to pursue damages for the significant financial losses that Google has caused.

“Bleeding a small company out may have been a strategy to squash competition and win the first battle, however now with litigation funding being finalized as we decide on which of the multiple parties have offered to fund us, we will now have the resources to fight for our shareholders for as long as required, to return the value that is rightfully ours. We may have lost this battle, but certainly not the war!

“On a personal note, the last few months have been extremely challenging and I can’t be more thankful for my family, friends, the Unlockd family and many of you who are reading this that have been a constant support to me professionally and personally.”


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