FTC raps Google's knuckles as it concludes anti-trust investigation

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has concluded an anti-trust investigation of Google Inc. and found more to be concerned about with the company’s patents than in its search business. Google has therefore promised the FTC that it will provide freer access to patents affecting the development of such consumer devices as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has concluded an anti-trust investigation of Google Inc. and found more to be concerned about with the company’s patents than in its search business. Google has therefore promised the FTC that it will provide access to "essential" patents affecting the development of such consumer devices as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles.

The FTC specifically pointed to the patents Google now owns thanks to the acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google has promised not seek injunctions that might impede its competitors from fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory access to "critical standarized technologies" that those patents might cover.

Google also promised to make it easier for search engine advertisers to manage campaigns on its AdWords platform and competing platforms simultaneously.

“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 via a press release. “This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the Commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements.

“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.”

While Beth Wilkinson, outside counsel to the FTC, labeled Google’s concessions “significant” in the same release, Google fared much better than some observers had feared, as it dodged legal action.

“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,” said Wilkinson. “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.”

While Google can now breathe easier in the U.S., it still faces similar anti-trust investigations in other parts of the world, including Europe.

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