The FTC closed its 19 month antitrust investigation of Google and Google came out of this largely unscathed. The FTC reports that Google agreed to change some of its business practices to resolve Federal Trade Commission concerns that "those practices could stifle competition in the markets for popular devices such as smart phones, tablets and gaming consoles, as well as the markets for online search advertising."
Under a settlement reached with the FTC, Google will meet its prior commitments to allow competitors access – on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms – to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles. In a separate letter of commitment to the Commission, Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google’s AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called “vertical” websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings.
“The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the Commission, and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements.”
“We are especially glad to see that Google will live up to its commitments to license its standard-essential patents, which will ensure that companies willing to license these patents can compete in the market for wireless devices,” Leibowitz added. “This decision strengthens the standard-setting process that is at the heart of innovation in today’s technology markets.”
Leibowitz emphasized, "The law protects competition not competitors."
The FTC also conducted an extensive investigation into allegations that Google biased its search results to disadvantage certain vertical websites; and that Google entered into anti-competitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on both desktop and in the mobile arena. The agency also decided not to take action in connection with these allegations.
The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through February 4, 2013, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.