U.S. Federal Trade Commission announces proposed settlement with Google

On 3 January 2013 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Google Inc. has agreed to not seek injunctive relief against rivals using its essential patents. The FTC also announced that Google has altered its practices in online search and advertising.

The FTC had alleged that Google reneged on its commitments to license its essential patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms by pursuing injunctions against companies who were willing to license the patents. To address this concern, Google has agreed not to seek injunctive relief, if under certain conditions the licensee is willing to enter into a licensing agreement with Google.

Some FTC Commissioners were concerned that Google misappropriated content (e.g. user reviews) from websites that compete with Google’s vertical search services and that certain conditions made it difficult for advertisers to manage campaigns on ad platforms that compete with Google’s AdWords platform. Google has agreed to refrain from such practices in a separate letter, which is not part of the proposed consent decree.

Finally, the FTC issued a statement that it has closed its investigation into allegations that Google unfairly preferences its own content in Google search results (known as “search bias”) on the grounds that these search features are innovations that plausibly benefit consumers. [Juha Vesala]