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Google agrees not to seek product bans

Reaches settlement with FTC, including commitments over the standards-essential patents it acquired with Motorola


Published: 4 January, 2013

READ MORE: US | Google | Applications (Search) | Patents/IPR | Regulator | Android

Google has agreed not to seek injunctions against rivals using its standards-essential patents, many acquired with Motorola Mobility, as part of a deal struck with the US antitrust agency the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

While the main concern of the probe had been Google's dominance of the online search market, the purchase of Motorola and its IPR mountain had also raised fears that the web giant could use those assets to gain unfair advantage over mobile rivals, especially as Android becomes an increasingly major part of its growth plan, and as it moves more aggressively into the integrated hardware/software game.

Under the settlement with the FTC, Google has pledged to meet its prior commitments to conform with Frand (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) guidelines for licensing patents which are essential to industry standards such as those of the 3GPP. Motorola Mobility has significant IPR holdings in this area, and has itself been probed by the European Union and other bodies concerning Frand practices, before and after its acquisition by Google.

Now, its new parent has agreed to a Consent Order that bars it from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee of the essential patents, either in federal court or at the ITC (International Trade Commission). This reflects growing concerns about how readily mobile majors are seeking bans on rivals' products in both these venues. Motorola has outstanding legal battles with Microsoft and Apple, though Google has rarely been dragged into court in its own name. The search firm has also agreed not 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 FTC, Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to manage campaigns simultaneously on its own AdWords platform and on rival systems; and to refrain from misappropriating content from 'vertical' websites that focus on specific categories such as 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 in a statement. "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. This decision strengthens the standard setting process that is at the heart of innovation in today's technology markets."

The FTC had also conducted investigations into claims that Google biased its search results to disadvantage certain vertical websites; and that it entered into anti-competitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of its search engine in the PC and mobile markets. The agency decided not to take action in connection with these allegations.

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