Google has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that will end the agency’s nearly two-year antitrust probe. While the FTC will not bring any formal charges, the search giant has also agreed to make certain changes to its operations, including the way it licenses patents.
The FTC investigation focused on allegations that Google biased its search results to favor its company over certain vertical websites. It also examined whether Google entered into anti-competitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on both desktop and in the mobile devices. The FTC declined to take action in connection with these allegations.
The FTC did find fault with Google’s business practices related to its large portfolio of patents, many of which were acquired through a $12.5 billion deal with Motorola Mobility (MMI). As detailed by the FTC, its complaint alleges that Google reneged on its commitments to license standard-essential patents on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms. Rather, it pursued – or threatened to pursue – injunctions against companies that need to use MMI’s standard-essential patents in their devices and were willing to license them on FRAND terms (Friendly, Reasonable and Non Discriminatory).
Standard setting bodies require participants to license their Intellectual Property to other members of the group to prevent licensing abuse. This prevents members from participating in a standards setting body and then taking advantage of having their IP included in the industry standards. This mostly came about after Rambus corporation abused their role in DDR-SDRAM memory while a member of JEDEC. Since that time, almost all standard setting bodies require RAND or FRAND agreements prior to participating.
Under the terms of the settlement, Google has agreed to grant competitors access to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to enable wireless connectivity on popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles. The Consent Order specifically prohibits the company from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee, either in federal court or at the International Trade Commission, to block the use of any standard-essential patents that the company has previously committed to license on FRAND terms.
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I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +