It’s being reported that Google is close to reaching a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding its long running anti-trust investigation.
According to separate reports from Reuters and Politico, Google appears to have relented and agreed not to use its horde of patents to block the sale of products that it says infringe on its intellectual property. However, it’s believed that the two parties are no closer to a deal on the larger issue at stake, which involves claims that Google has rigged its search engine algorithm to the disadvantage of rival websites in niches such as travel and shopping.
Google Agrees To Compromise
Regarding the patent issue, Google may well have decided to compromise with the FTC after realizing that it doesn’t have much of a case to put forward any. The crux of the matter is that Google holds what are known as ‘standard essential patents’, used by the software industry to protect technical standards’ technology. One example of this would be a patent that allows one wireless phone brand to connect to another, says Reuters.
Whilst Google has used standard essential patents in a number of international legal disputes with its rivals, it’s unlikely that it will be able to do so at home, following a federal judge’s ruling that they cannot be used to win injunctions. This comes after previous rulings from FTC commissioners that using such patents could also be considered anti-competitive.
As such, Google is now thought to be nearing a deal in which it will only request an injunction against companies using its patents if they refuse to license them. Reuters says that such a deal could be concluded as early as this week.
No Resolution in Search Bias Case
How the more pertinent aspect of Google’s battle with the FTC will be resolved remains anybody’s guess meanwhile. Google has been accused of tweaking its search engine so that it displays results from its own websites and products ahead of rival companies in a variety of lucrative niches, a practice that numerous travel and shopping websites have described as unfair.
Critics of Google say that the search company does this out of fear that it’s most lucrative advertising revenues will be siphoned away.
One possible course of action by the FTC might be to just dump the problem in the hands of the European Commission, which has mounted its own investigation into Google’s alleged unfair practices. Separately, Reuters claims that a number of Google’s competitors ready to take the case to the US Justice Department should any decision go against them.