November 2, 2012
FTC Wants To Sue Google For Suing Everyone Else
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Patent lawsuits have been running rampant in the tech industry in recent years. Nearly every company is currently suing or has recently sued some other company for their use of a bit of technology that the first company claims they own the rights to. Google´s Motorola, for instance, has tangled with both Microsoft and Apple for their use of patents which Motorola claims they have ownership rights to.
While protecting a company´s IP is all well and good, these suits become trickier when they involve patents which make the device work as it should, such as 3G patents for cell phones.
This summer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an investigation to discover if Google, through Motorola, is unfairly blocking their competitors´ access to these Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) patents.
The FTC has concluded this investigation and yesterday made a formal recommendation that its commissioners sue Google for violation of anti-trust laws.
According to a Bloomberg report, five commissioners are already “inclined to sue” Google on these charges, though the recommendation to sue won´t be made official until after the November 6th presidential elections.
“We take our commitments to license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms very seriously and are happy to answer any questions,” said a Google spokesperson, speaking to Bloomberg. An FTC spokesperson declined to comment on this recommendation.
The FTC´s investigation focused particularly on Google´s attempts to block products from Apple and Microsoft from being sold in the US by claiming they infringed upon some Motorola patents. The patents in question were found to be industry-standard patents covering technologies such as 3G, Wi-Fi and video streaming. During their investigation, the FTC asked Apple and Microsoft if Google´s Motorola had been willing to license out these standard patents on “fair and reasonable terms.”
The FTC also investigated Google´s decision to continue some of Motorola´s legal pursuits, even after Google had acquired the mobility company. Both Apple and Microsoft were targets in these suits, with Google´s Motorola looking to ban iPads and Xbox gaming systems in the US.
“There is a tough emerging attitude by antitrust regulators who´ve recognized that the failure to honor standard essential patent commitments needs to be treated much more severely than in the past,” said Bert Foer, the president of the American Antitrust Institute, in a statement to Bloomberg.
“The agencies want to move this issue to the forefront by speaking out and tackling these high profile cases.”
This isn´t the only FTC probe into Google´s business practices. A separate investigation is also underway as the FTC works to find if Google is harming competition in the advertising, mobile and search industries. While a final decision has yet to be made on this case, the FTC investigators have also recommended their commissioners to sue.
News was also released yesterday that Google´s Motorola is still pushing ahead in these lawsuits against Apple. According to Florian Mueller at the Foss Patents blog, Motorola filed an appeal against an ITC ruling that Apple had not infringed these industry standard patents. Motorola filed for this appeal on September 19th, 2012.