The king of search dodges a bullet.
Following a 20-month investigation, the FTC today announced its settlement with Google over a variety of allegedly anti-competitive business practices. Here's what you need to know:
1. What's the top takeaway?
On the matter of whether Google's search service was violating anti-competitive statutes, Google walked away scot-free. The question here was whether Google was using its algorithms to demote websites that compete directly with other Google services (and, hand-in-hand with this, to promote its in-house offerings). The FTC concluded "that the introduction of Universal Search, as well as additional changes made to Google's search algorithms - even those that may have had the effect of harming individual competitors - could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google's product and the experience of its users." (Emphasis added)
The FTC has closed that investigation.
2. So that's it? Just a big Google win?
Not quite. The FTC did lodge a complaint with Google's practices with regard to the patents it acquired in the Motorola deal -- "standard-essential patents" that cover technologies essential to many mobile devices. The FTC found that Google had reneged on its earlier commitment to license such technologies on "FRAND" terms -- fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory -- and Google has "voluntarily" agreed to "a Consent Order that prohibits it from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee, either in federal court or at the ITC, to block the use of any standard-essential patents that the company has previously committed to license on FRAND terms."