Margrethe Vestager, EU competition chief, spoke about her decision last month that Google was abusing the power accrued via Android over handset makers and operators.
“People sometimes ask how we can say Google might be hurting innovation, when it has such a great record of coming up with innovative products,” she said.
It’s true that Google has an “amazing” record of innovation. “Anyone who remembers searching the internet before the days of Google knows that,” she added. And the search giant should have just rewards for past innovation.
However, Vestager said in the crux of her speech: “But those rewards can’t include the right to hold back innovation in the future.”
In her conclusion, she admitted the rules had to be flexible, and not map every detail of what is permitted or not. But that doesn’t mean dropping regulation altogether. “Because innovators need rules”. They need to know, market leaders can’t misuse their power to block them selling a new product, for example.
Rules for innovation should share the same approach as for competition. “Firm on basic principles, but without trying to specify every situation in advance,” she concluded.
Last month the commission reached the preliminary view that Google was making vendors and operators preload its apps on their phones. This tactic is holding back innovation in the apps market.
Vestager was speaking today at the Regulation4Innovation event at the European Parliament.
Keeping up standards
She also spoke about standard-essential patents. Just over two years ago, the commission decided that Motorola abused its power by asking injunctions against companies willing to pay a fair price to use its technology. On the same day, rival Samsung agreed to not ask for injunctions.
Last year, the commission confirmed its approach in a case involving Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.
Standard-essential patent holders must share their tech on fair terms, or it can be damaging for competition, she said.
The standard holders can still press for injunctions, if a phone maker isn’t willing to pay a fair price. “But they can’t use them as a threat to get more than a fair deal,” Vestager added.