Google, FTC agreement could make mobile more hospitable for smaller players

Google has reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission over its antitrust suit that will give competitors greater access to its mobile patents and could mean fewer patent-related lawsuits.

The agreement also addresses Google?s search business, giving advertisers more flexibility to use rival search engines. The FTC said in a statement that evidence did not justify legal actions with regard to allegations that Google biased its search results to hurt competition.

?There has been this debate about standard essential patents and concerns about Google using standard essential patents that it acquired from Motorola to stifle competition,? said Philip Solis, research director of mobile devices at ABI Research, Oyster Bay, NY. "Google has said in the past that they wouldn?t do that and now they have agreed to not do that as part of this settlement.

?It could start a trend around standard essential patents not being used for offensive purposes,? he said. ?That is a good thing because it means potentially less litigation.

?This kind of stuff doesn?t affect the bigger companies because they have enough resources to work around patents but this could be positive for smaller players.?

Fewer suits possible
Google agreed to the changes to resolve the FTC?s concerns that the search giant might be stifling competition in the markets for smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and online search advertising via its business practices.

Under the settlement, Google has agreed to meet prior commitments to allow competitors to license patents on critical standardized technologies for smartphones and tablets as well as laptop computers and gaming consoles.

Some of the patents that were the focus of the inquiry were acquired by Google when it purchased Motorola Mobility, including hundreds of patents that are essential to industry standards used to provide wireless connectivity and for Internet-related technologies.

Specifically, Google will not seek injunctions to block rivals from using patents essential to key technologies.

The agreement could lead the way toward fewer patent lawsuits in the mobile industry, which has seen the volume of intellectual property-related litigation expand as companies jockey for a more prominent space in the quickly growing industry.

?The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy,? said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement.

More flexibility for advertisers
Google has also agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google?s AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms.

Under the same commitment, Google also has promised to provide all Web sites the option to keep their content out of Google?s vertical search offerings, while still having them appear in Google?s organic Web search results.

?The agreement means they are not going to use their patents in an offensive manner to delay shipments of other products,? Mr. Solis said. ?Their patents will be for seeking agreements outside of the courtroom for royalties.

?This doesn?t remove the patents issue in general,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York