Google Agrees to Change How It Manages Standards-Essential Patents
Google has agreed to change some of its business practices to resolve Federal Trade Commission concerns about how it is managing standard-essential patents as well as its dominance of the market for online search advertising.
Under a settlement reached with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Google will meet its prior commitments to allow competitors access - on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms - to its standards-essential patents. Most of these were acquired as part of the Motorola Mobility transaction, and the problems largely stem from before Google's acquisition.
As part of the settlement, Google has agreed to a Consent Order that prohibits it from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee, either in federal court or at the ITC, to block the use of any standard-essential patents that the company has previously committed to license on FRAND terms.
In a separate letter of commitment to the Commission, Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google's AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called "vertical" websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings.
"The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
"We are especially glad to see that Google will live up to its commitments to license its standard-essential patents, which will ensure that companies willing to license these patents can compete in the market for wireless devices," Leibowitz added. "This decision strengthens the standard-setting process that is at the heart of innovation in today's technology markets."
The FTC had also conducted an investigation into allegations that Google biased its search results to disadvantage certain vertical websites; and that Google entered into anticompetitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on both desktop and in the mobile arena. The agency decided not to take action in connection with these allegations.
"Undoubtedly, Google took aggressive actions to gain advantage over rival search providers. However, the FTC's mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors. The evidence did not demonstrate that Google's actions in this area stifled competition in violation of U.S. law." said Beth Wilkinson, outside counsel to the Commission.
The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through February 4, 2013, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.