FTC criticises patent blocking but clears Google of search results bias
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a final order demanding changes to the way Google licences some of its patents in the US.
The FTC will now require Google, and its subsidiary, Motorola Mobility (MMI), to abide by commitments previously made which impose limits on injunctions blocking access to standard-essential patents and to license them on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
The initial order follows an FTC investigation in June 2011, after Google’s rivals claimed it was blocking access to the patents, which are needed for the development of devices including tablets and smart phones.
Rivals also claimed that Google had been promoting itself above competitors in its search engine.
Commissioners cleared Google of search results bias but said it had engaged in unfair conduct in blocking patent access.
However, despite previous commitments, the commission alleged that Google had continued to pursue injunctions and exclusion orders against companies that needed to use the patents in their devices even if they were willing to license them on FRAND terms.
The final order, which was approved on Wednesday, July 24, following a public comment period, requires Google and MMI to abide by commitments and to make sure they licence patents on FRAND terms.
In a letter sent to commenters outlining the final order, the FTC said the new measures “struck a balance.”
“It enables Google and implementers to negotiate a FRAND rate while protecting both parties from opportunistic behaviour that is inconsistent with the FRAND agreement,” it says.
The vote approving the final order was 2-1-1.
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