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Google bows to FTC pressure over essential Moto mobile patents


Tim Ferguson

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Google has agreed to allow competitors to have access to standard-essential patents for mobile technology following an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The search giant agreed to make the changes to its business practices in response to allegations that it was stifling competition in the smartphone, tablet, gaming and online search markets.

Google will allow competitors access to its patents for critical standardised technologies used in smartphones, tablets, PCs and gaming consoles, on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) basis.

The company acquired 24,000 patents when it bought Motorola Mobility in 2012, hundreds of which are essential to industry standards for wireless connectivity and online technologies.

The FTC’s original complaint alleged that Google went back on its FRAND commitments and pursued injunctions against companies that need to use Motorola standard-essential patents for their devices and were willing to license them on FRAND terms.

If left unchecked, the FTC said that the practice can lead to higher prices as companies pay to use Google’s patents due to the threats of an injunction and pass these costs onto consumers.

Google has now said it will not seek injunctions to block rivals from using the Motorola patents essential to key technologies.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the move is “a strong and enforceable set of agreements” and that Google’s commitments to license standard-essential patents “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,” he added.

Google also committed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on rival ad platforms alongside Google’s AdWords services.

Following an extensive investigation, FTC counsel Beth Wilkinson said the evidence collected did not warrant legal action regarding allegations that Google entered into anticompetitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on devices and biased search results to disadvantage certain vertical websites.

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