Congress may scrutinize Apple’s ‘copy-acquire-kill’ strategy

By

Tim Cook goes to Washington
This is one of the questions Tim Cook could field tomorrow.
Screenshot: Apple

Lawmakers reportedly will quiz Apple on its “copy-acquire-kill” strategy during Wednesday’s congressional antitrust hearing.

According to the Washington Post, this will be one of the areas that Apple will be scrutinized on to see if it has engaged in anti-competitive behavior. “Copy-acquire-kill” refers to buying companies to acquire their innovative features, before killing them to stop other platforms from having access to them.

The Washington Post article notes that:

“Some of the evidence lawmakers have amassed is set to be furnished publicly for the first time Wednesday. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), one of the panel members who will question the companies, said a few of the documents evince a ‘copy-acquire-kill’ strategy on the part of tech companies to buy or suppress potential rivals. The Democratic lawmaker said the committee has seen some ‘very specific language from top-level executives about that,’ but she declined to offer specifics.”

This “top-level executive” reference could refer to emails Apple CEO Tim Cook and other Apple execs submitted during the investigation.

Apple and its acquisitions

Compared to other tech giants, Apple’s number of acquisitions remains comparatively small — or, at least, involves smaller sums for less-prominent companies. Cupertino hasn’t snapped up giants like Netflix or Spotify that compete with services like Apple TV+ and Apple Music. However, Apple has been known to acquire companies and then shut down their Android apps.

Apple developers have long joked (sometimes not-so-jokingly) about being Sherlocked. This refers to Cupertino’s propensity for adding features from popular third-party apps into official Apple products. This then cuts the legs from under those third-party services.

Last week, Scott Galloway, a NYU Stern School of Business marketing professor who wrote the best-selling book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, shared some of the questions he thinks Congress will ask at Wednesday’s hearing.