Google Agrees to License Patents in FTC Settlement

Google has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that will end the agency’s nearly two-year antitrust probe. While the FTC will not bring any formal charges, the search giant has also agreed to make certain changes to its operations, including the way it licenses patents.

The FTC investigation focused on allegations that Google biased its search results to favor its company over certain vertical websites. It also examined whether Google entered into anticompetitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on both desktop and in the mobile devices. The FTC declined to take action in connection with these allegations.

However, the FTC did find fault with Google’s business practices related to its large portfolio of patents, many of which were acquired through a $12.5 billion deal with Motorola Mobility (MMI). As detailed by the FTC, its complaint alleges that Google reneged on its commitments to license standard-essential patents on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms. Rather, it pursued – or threatened to pursue – injunctions against companies that need to use MMI’s standard-essential patents in their devices and were willing to license them on FRAND terms.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google has agreed to grant competitors access to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to enable wireless connectivity on popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles. The Consent Order specifically prohibits the company from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee, either in federal court or at the International Trade Commission, to block the use of any standard-essential patents that the company has previously committed to license on FRAND terms.

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