google FTC

Earlier today, the FTC wrapped up a 19-month investigation of Google’s business practices (which we have covered extensively), agreeing not to bring charges against the company. There is a catch, however.

While the FTC voted 5-0 to end the investigation into Google’s search without further action, it was slightly harsher with regard to patents. The vote was 4-1 to end the investigation, but with a consent decree from Google. Google will make two changes it describes as voluntary, though they will be enforced by the FTC:

  • More choice for websites: Websites can already opt out of Google Search, and they can now remove content (for example reviews) from specialized search results pages, such as local, travel and shopping;
  • More ad campaign control: Advertisers can already export their ad campaigns from Google AdWords. They will now be able to mix and copy ad campaign data within third-party services that use our AdWords API.

One of the biggest changes coming is that when it comes to standard essential patents, like those held by the Google-owned Motorola, Google has agreed to no longer pursue injunctions, aside from limited situations. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz says “We are especially glad to see that Google will live up to its commitments to license its standard-essential patents, which will ensure that companies willing to license these patents can compete in the market for wireless devices.”

While this leaves Google in a less-than-optimal position to defend itself from attacks from its competition, the company seems eager to shine a positive light on the situation. A statement released by the company on the Google Official Blog says: “So we head into 2013 excited about our ability to innovate for the benefit of users everywhere.”

What do you think of the FTC’s decision? Do you think they were too tough or too easy on Google?