US regulators close to a settlement regarding Google patent disputes

December 12, 2012
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google FTC

It appears that the Federal Trade Commission is close to reaching a settlement regarding Google’s attempts to block products they believe infringe on a number of their patents. The focus of this deal is to resolve disputes involving standard essential patents relating to Google’s search engine and mobile technologies.

Standard essential patents (SEP) are patents which guarantee that implementations of a fundamental technology apply to an agreed upon standard. They are required to ensure that consistency is maintained across various implementations of the patented technology. For example Bluetooth technologies are licensed with an essential patent which regulates the standard of the technology used to ensure different devices can communicate with each other.

The deal is expected to result in restrictions on Google that will prevent them from requesting injunctions in lawsuits involving SEPs. This is aimed at preventing Google from demanding unfair conditions of third parties which wish to license their patents. However exceptions will be made if companies aren’t willing to negotiate on SEPs, so competitors aren’t totally immune from the threat of injunctions.

Whilst that all sounds very complicated, there is still an even larger FTC case into Google which is still ongoing. The broader case is looking into accusation that Google is unjustly tweaking results in order to lock out market share from its shopping and travel competitors. Google has also been accused of unfairly taking data from other websites to use in conjunction with its own products, such as hotel and product reviews. On top of that there are concerns from competitors over search result address biases and preventions on the export of advertising effectiveness data to non-Google software. With such a wide variety of allegations against the search giant it’s not surprising that this investigation isn’t expected to be resolved anytime soon.

If that wasn’t enough the Texas attorney general’s office is separately investigating some of Google’s business practices and the European Commission is also examining many of the same allegations as the FTC. Looks like a long legal battle lies ahead.

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