Google recently warded off an antitrust investigation from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by agreeing to license certain patents to its rivals in the mobile industry. The FTC recently announced that Google agreed to license “essential patents” to competitors such as Apple, some of which were acquired in its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. According to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz:
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. This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the Commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements.
The evidence the FTC uncovered through this intensive investigation prompted us to require significant changes in Google’s business practices. However, regarding the specific allegations that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission. 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.
- Google will not seek injunctions to block rivals from using patents essential to key technologies
- Google will remove restrictions hampering advertisers’ management of their ad campaigns across competing ad platforms
The FTC also announced that it has closed another investigation into allegations of search bias by Google. The commission took a closer look at Google’s “Universal Search” product, but eventually concluded that changes made to Google’s search algorithms could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience for its users. The FTC staff initially recommended that Google be sued via antitrust law over FRAND patent abuse. The FTC began its civil investigation into Google just last July originally. Google also ran into trouble with the FTC last year for bypassing settings in Apple’s Safari browse, where it had to pay a record $22.5 million fine for ignoring security settings Apple had designed to prevent advertisers from tracking users with cookies.
This is definitely a big win for the mobile industry and should help with patent litigation safety going forward.