The Federal Trade Commission has resolved its probe of search giant Google, it was announced today, with the regulatory body assessing light reprimands in exchange for Google agreeing to modify some of its business practices. The 10-year settlement Google reached with the FTC will require the company to fulfill prior promises to allow competitors access to standard-essential patents used in smartphones, laptops, tablets, and gaming consoles. The settlement brings to a close a 19-month antitrust probe by the FTC, one that looked at the ways in which Google handles its search results and whether the company uses its dominant position in the search market to crowd out other competitors across a number of services.
As part of the deal, Google has also agreed to allow online advertisers greater flexibility in exporting Google AdWord data to campaigns on rival platforms. In addition, Google will agree to refrain from "misappropriating online content from so-called 'vertical' websites focused on specific categories" and using that content in its own services.
The settlement involving the standard-essential patents was part of another, separate investigation. That probe found that Google had reneged on its responsibility to administer patents -- which it acquired when purchasing Motorola -- in a Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) manner. Google has subsequently agreed to a Consent Order prohibiting it from seeking injunctions against willing licensees in federal court or at the International Trade Commission. Google also may not block the use of standard-essential patents it has already committed to license on FRAND terms. Announcing the probe's resolution, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the Commission had conducted "an incredibly thorough and careful investigation" that yielded "a strong and enforceable set of agreements."
Unlikely to be pleased with the agreement is Microsoft, the software giant that also competes against Google in the search industry. Microsoft's Bing search engine is a distant second behind Google in terms of market share. Microsoft has long alleged that Google's search practices are anticompetitive, and the company recently leveled charges that Google is unfairly blocking devices running Windows Phone from fully accessing popular video sharing site YouTube, which Google owns.