FTC, Google Reportedly Close To Patent Settlement
December 12, 2012

Deal Could Be Reached Between Google And FTC Over Motorola Patents

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google are close to reaching a deal that would resolve an ongoing antitrust probe over Google´s use of patents it acquired through the purchase of Motorola Mobility, according to multiple media reports.

The FTC began investigating Google´s use of these patents, which belong to a special class known as standard essential patents (SEPs), in June. The federal regulatory body has been trying to determine whether Google had been using the SEP´s to unfairly stop the sale of rival products.

A federal judge has previously ruled that such standards-based patents, which come with promises to license on a "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” basis, can't be used to win injunctions.

A settlement between Google and the FTC could be reached as early as this week, Politico reported, with Google likely agreeing to license any standards-essential Motorola patents to rivals, and abstain from seeking injunctions on products it believes infringe on these patents.

Google´s practice of not making this sort of broad agreement with competitors has made it an outlier in the tech industry.

Details of a potential settlement in the patent case are still coming together, and Google may ultimately be permitted to continue pursuing injunctive relief in some circumstances.

For instance, Google may want the right to pursue injunctions against firms that infringe Motorola's patents, but refuse to license them, even under the “reasonable” terms required when licensing SEPs, Politico said.

Google did not disclose any details about a potential settlement, but issued a statement saying the company would continue working with the FTC.

“We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have,” a Google spokesman said.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has previously said he expects the case to reach some sort of resolution by the end of the year.

Google is also facing a separate FTC antitrust probe over its search service, in a case that involves more active parties and is seen as more controversial.

That investigation, which is more than a year old, addresses Google´s potential search bias, and whether the company incorporates data, such as restaurant reviews, into its own products, and whether it prevents the export of data on advertising effectiveness to non-Google software.

The European Commission is also investigating many of these allegations.

Politico´s sources said the Google settlement would likely resemble a decision made last month by the FTC in a patent probe involving air-conditioning systems´ equipment. In a 3-2 split, the Commission voted to require home appliance maker Bosch to agree not to pursue injunctions against rivals who were allegedly infringing on its SEPs.

The Commission majority said SEP holders who seek injunctions against licensees “should understand that in appropriate cases the commission can and will challenge this conduct as an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act.”