Antitrust Experts Eye Adobe Purchase of Macromedia

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Federal regulators are holding up Adobe’s proposed acquisition of Macromedia by requesting additional information and market studies to determine if the companies’ merger violates the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The planned purchase, announced in April and valued at $3.4 billion, would bring under one roof — cumulatively called Adobe — the immensely popular graphics, portable document format (PDF) and web-design capabilities of the two Northern California companies.

It also raises speculation about unfair market domination, despite what both Adobe and Macromedia call a “routine” second request for information from the Department of Justice.

Adobe chose to bid on Macromedia because many of the two companies’ products overlap in scope, and because they were both facing increased competition from open source providers. In addition, Microsoft recently unleashed a beta version of its own Adobe Illustrator-like vector graphics program, code-named Acrylic.

"It's not unusual to see a second [DOJ] request in cases where the parties serve the same market, especially in software," said Connie Robinson, an antitrust lawyer at Kilpatrick Stockton.

"Unlike a widget, where you can see it and touch it, software is harder to get your hands around and understand," she said.

Spokespeople for Adobe have speculated that any possible legal challenge will not keep the company from finalizing the purchase of Macromedia some time in the fall.