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Google, FTC Settle Antitrust Case 59

Posted by timothy
from the fairly-uneventful-on-the-surface dept.
itwbennett writes "According to an ITworld report, 'Google has agreed to change some of its business practices, including allowing competitors access to some standardized technologies, to resolve a U.S. Federal Trade Commission antitrust complaint against the company.' This includes 'allow[ing] competitors access to standards-essential patents the company acquired along with its purchase of Motorola Mobility.' Also among the business practices Google has agreed to stop is 'scraping Web content from rivals and allegedly passing it off as its own, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.'" SlashCloud has some more details, including links to the agreement itself and Google's soft-pedaling description of "voluntary product changes."
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Google, FTC Settle Antitrust Case

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  • All Google agreed was that the patents it holds which are essential to the implementation of certain mobile-telephony standards will be licensed under FRAND terms [wikipedia.org]. They didn't agree to let them be used for free or anything.

    Why weren't those already the terms? Standards bodies are supposed to, if they're doing their job, approve standards with some kind of FRAND licensing condition, in order for the standards to actually function as standards. The point of a standard is that everyone making a device with a certain kind of functionality is supposed to conform to certain agreed ("standard") behavior. To do that, they have to be able to legally able to implement the standard, which means any patents essential to the implementation need to be generally available to any third party for licensing, on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

  • by dgharmon (2564621) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @05:15PM (#42468013) Homepage
    "regarding the specific allegations [ftc.gov] that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission .. The evidence did not demonstrate that Google's actions in this area stifled competition in violation of U.S. law".
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @05:51PM (#42468529)

    Google unfairly ranking their own products higher on their search engines would be an abuse of monopoly power.

    It might have been, if they did that, but the FTC investigated that claim and didn't find support for it, saying [ftc.gov]:

    In sum, we find that the evidence presented at this time does not support the allegation that Google’s display of its own vertical content at or near the top of its search results page was a product design change undertaken without a legitimate business justification. Rather, we conclude that Google’s display of its own content could plausibly be viewed as an improvement in the overall quality of Google’s search product. Similarly, we have not found sufficient evidence that Google manipulates its search algorithms to unfairly disadvantage vertical websites that compete with Google-owned vertical properties. Although at points in time various vertical websites have experienced demotions, we find that this was a consequence of algorithm changes that also could plausibly be viewed as an improvement in the overall quality of Google’s search results.

    Although our careful review of the evidence in this matter supports our decision to close this investigation, we will remain vigilant and continue to monitor Google for conduct that may harm competition and consumers.

  • Re:And hopefully... (Score:4, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @06:04PM (#42468667)

    You think Google lost here? The FTC has been trying for half a decade to bring an anti-trust case against Google

    I don't think that's really all that true; if the FTC was trying to bring a case, it wouldn't agree to a Consent Order, and it would just bring a case.

    Certain Google competitors have been pressing the FTC to bring a case, mostly about "search bias", and secondarily and more recently about use of standards-essential patents. The FTC, after investigating, has decided -- unanimously -- to drop the "search bias" issue, and -- narrowly, on a 3-2 vote -- to impose fairly limited restrictions in a Consent Order relating to the use of standards-essential patents, basically saying that Google has to give the other party a clear opportunity to commit to accepting a court determination of FRAND terms, where Google may include a requirement for reciprocal licensing, before it seeks an injunction.

    This isn't a loss for the FTC or Google, but it may be a loss for the Google competitors that have been pushing for antitrust action.

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