Aussie start-up Unlockd ups the stakes in global fight with Google

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Aussie start-up Unlockd ups the stakes in global fight with Google

Aussie start-up Unlockd ups the stakes in global fight with Google

Unlockd also operates in the UK, US and Indonesia, with court documents showing 38 of its 59-strong global team are employed in Australia.

On Thursday, co-founder Matt Berriman told Fairfax the legal action would continue, and that the company could seek damages from Google as part of this action.


“Our legal course of action remains, however, we will now also consider our options in relation to damages against Google,” Mr Berriman said.

The administrators for Unlockd’s Australian operations, McGrathNicol, said there would be discussions about the future of its local legal action against Google, given litigation incurs an expense.

It is understood the administrator will work with Mr Berriman to decide on a future course of action, and could see the legal action continue if it is viewed as a potential source of funds, but a decision was yet to be made.

In April, Unlockd successfully applied for an injunction in UK to stop it being removed from Google’s play store. Unlockd is an android-only app and is not available on Apple devices meaning it is currently dependent on being available through the play store. It is financially backed by Lachlan Murdoch.

Citing it’s legal counsel, Unlockd said “the threats made by Google to withdraw access and the supply of services in respect of Google Play and AdMob represent an abuse of its dominant position and breach of competition rules.”

Google claims Unlockd is in breach of “a number” of its policies, an assertion Unlockd “firmly rejects”.

The case is due before the High Court in Britain in September.

Unlockd doomed says futurist

The Australian London-based futurist Andrew Grill said even if Unlockd won its battle against Google, its business model would seal its demise in the long-run. He attempted a similar venture in 2009 and points to another which emerged only to fail, called Blyk.

“Nine years ago Blyk proved that the mobile interruption model simply did not work. They found the eyeballs willing to watch ads in return for free calls and texts, but the model was simply not sustainable then and is definitely a flawed model in 2018.

“I have first-hand experience in the UK trying to convince mobile operators and global advertisers to buy into an ‘interruption’ mobile ad model. It failed in 2009 and will fail again in 2018,” said Mr Grill.

“It reminds me of a similar venture in the UK, Blyk that was launched in the in 2007 and promised the youth segment (we would later call them “millennials”) free calls and texts in return for receiving targeted ads to their phones,” he said.

“Just as Unlockd is reporting strong subscriber numbers and large fundraising rounds, the lessons from Blyk (which failed two years after launch) should be taken seriously.

“Blyk found out that while millennials loved free calls and texts, they did not have the disposable income that advertisers craved, and led them to spend big on the products they were advertising.”

Latika Bourke

Latika Bourke is a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age based in London. She has previously worked for Fairfax Media, the ABC and 2UE in Canberra. Latika won the Walkley Award for Young Australian Journalist of the Year in 2010.

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