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Google, FTC Settle Antitrust Case

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the fairly-uneventful-on-the-surface dept.

Google 59

itwbennett writes "According to an ITworld report, 'Google has agreed to change some of its business practices, including allowing competitors access to some standardized technologies, to resolve a U.S. Federal Trade Commission antitrust complaint against the company.' This includes 'allow[ing] competitors access to standards-essential patents the company acquired along with its purchase of Motorola Mobility.' Also among the business practices Google has agreed to stop is 'scraping Web content from rivals and allegedly passing it off as its own, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.'" SlashCloud has some more details, including links to the agreement itself and Google's soft-pedaling description of "voluntary product changes."

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Gambit failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42465917)

How many billions did Google spend on Motorola?

Re:Gambit failed (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466093)

12. Plus another 500 million in losses over the past 2 quarters.

MS Gambit failed (3, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467031)

Re:MS Gambit failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42479411)

Did Google pay for the techdirt article? It pretty much bushes over anything negative and makes everything seem cheery and innocent on Google's part, as if they somehow graciously agreed to do this. In short, they had no choice, or things would have gotten very ugly for them.

Here's one that has a bit more detail rather than just blowing sunshine: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2023719/googles-ftc-antitrust-deal-top-takeaways-and-challenges.html [pcworld.com]

Regarding the anticompetitive behavior on the Search front...

One of the most concerning complaints leveled against Google was a claim from Yelp in late 2011. The local business review site said Google in 2010 began to use Yelp reviews in results for Google Local (also known as Places) without Yelp's permission.

When Yelp asked Google to stop using its reviews in Places, the search giant told Yelp that its reviews could be dropped only if Yelp agreed to be removed entirely from Google's web search index, according to a statement by Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. Considering Google owns about 67 percent of the U.S. search market, according to metrics firm comScore, a request to be dropped from Google's search index is pretty close to dropping right off the face of the Web.

And on the Standards Essential Patents front...

Since nearly every major company has SEPs, technology companies usually agree to license their patents on “fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory” terms.

The problem was, instead of doing that, Google used its SEPs in court to seek injunctions against rival devices even if the competing manufacturers were willing to license Google's patents. Google has now promised the FTC it will not use its SEPs as litigation weapons, and that agreement could impact cases beyond Google's, according to Florian Mueller, a patent expert and blogger.

If Samsung doesn't withdraw its U.S. injunction request as well, its case could end up being hurt by the FTC's settlement with Google.

Google's hands are dirty on multiple fronts, and if they didn't do this, they would have face anti-competetive charges without a doubt. Do No Evil indeed...

Re:MS Gambit failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42482763)

One of the results of this deal with the FTC is that Google is now required to allow vendors to opt out having their site crawled without being forced to have their entire site removed entirely from Google's search results. Google was essentially stealing review results from review sites and making them appear to be their own. They can no longer do this, and a search for such results will still return Yelp where someone can go on to read Yelp reviews if they choose to.

Re:Gambit failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42484919)

The only difference between now and last week is that Google has agreed to negotiate with others via a neutral third-party before seeking any injunctions.

And hopefully... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42465941)

... more like this will follow. Google needs to be taken down a few pegs before they get any more big and arrogant than they already are. They already tried the old dog new tricks thing with Microsoft and we all know how that worked out.

Re:And hopefully... (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466185)

You think Google lost here? The FTC has been trying for half a decade to bring an anti-trust case against Google, and at the end of it Google has agreed (not even been ordered) to change a few business practices. Google won. And quite frankly, the fact that this is the best the FTC could do against them would indicate that the FTC simply didn't have a case.

Re:And hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42466263)

Do you seriously think this is anything but smoke and mirrors? Google has deep ties with the NSA and other government agencies and Schmidt will supposedly be part of the current administration.

Re:And hopefully... (3, Insightful)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466907)

You mean how Google is required by law to comply when ordered by a judge or that Google is one of the few corps that actively try to not only notify the end user that the government is requesting data on them, but Google has actually used its own time and money to fight judges who attempted to seal requests, keeping Google from notifying the end user of such requests.

Yeah, bad bad Google. Not to say they're flawless, but they're not conspiring.

My Grammar teacher would have killed me for that run-on.

Re:And hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42484889)

What makes you think that Google has ties with the NSA? Did you find that written on the inside of your tin foil hat?

Re:And hopefully... (4, Informative)

aoteoroa (596031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466573)

Re:And hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42479433)

You do realize that this indicates they found no fault only on the Search aspect of the investigation?

Re:And hopefully... (0)

the computer guy nex (916959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466633)

You think Google lost here?

The only reason they completely overpaid for Motorola Mobility was for their patent portfolio. You could argue they have lost $12.5 billion.

Re:And hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42467423)

Well, "bought for patent portfolio" is right, but it's two pronged. Part of Google's reason to buy them was Moto basically threatening to sue every Android manufacturer out there.

It's not clear how it would turn out if it was Moto going after smaller OEMs and not Google going after MS and Apple.

Re:And hopefully... (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467869)

So you're basically saying that Google didn't lose now, because they already lost by having to pay for Motorola. Now, they simply aren't losing even more.

Granted, this isn't a big win for the FTC either. In fact, it looks like the only winner is whoever got the money from the Motorola sale.

Hey! It's That Angry Apple Troll bonch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42467859)

What happened to your main account bonch?

Did it get it get modded down into oblivion for your hilariously pathetic anti-Google tirades?

How many other alts are you posting with today? Never mind, they are easy to spot...

No injunction rule only for willing licensees (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468337)

The only reason they completely overpaid for Motorola Mobility was for their patent portfolio. You could argue they have lost $12.5 billion.

The limitations in the no-injunction rule are fairly narrow; they don't prevent Google from getting license revenue, and they don't prevent Google from seeking injunctions if the other party doesn't agree to a specific set of commitments regarding actually paying FRAND licensing fees once they are settled. And they only apply to standards-essential patents. So, there's still quite a bit of value in the Motorola patent portfolio.

Re:online Income (-1, Troll)

gujamari (2807759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467427)

just before I looked at the paycheck that said $6422, I be certain that my sister was actually earning money in their spare time on their apple labtop.. there aunt haz done this 4 only about 15 months and as of now cleared the depts on there villa and bought a new Lotus Elan. this is where I went, http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com]

Re:online Income (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468375)

I can "haz" money then? meowww

Scam spam = ban

Re:And hopefully... (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467597)

at the end of it Google has agreed (not even been ordered) to change a few business practices.

Who cares whether they have agreed to do it or been ordered to do it? The result is the same, it gets done.

Re:And hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42467687)

You mean the cost of doing business. It is even better when it works both ways for you and your competitors. Or lack there of.

This is why the entire market of any kind of goods, physical, intellectual or otherwise needs to be completely deregulated, no more of this fuckin monopoly crap. Should be enforced with guns IMO right back at the assholes. Let anyone on the planet sell and provide whatever god-damned services they want. Fair is fair. Just is just. Its that fuckin simple, anything otherwise is just brainwashing and fear mongering and the elite 1% wanting to hold onto absolutely everything they have, which is more then you could even hope to imagine.

Re:And hopefully... (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468667)

You think Google lost here? The FTC has been trying for half a decade to bring an anti-trust case against Google

I don't think that's really all that true; if the FTC was trying to bring a case, it wouldn't agree to a Consent Order, and it would just bring a case.

Certain Google competitors have been pressing the FTC to bring a case, mostly about "search bias", and secondarily and more recently about use of standards-essential patents. The FTC, after investigating, has decided -- unanimously -- to drop the "search bias" issue, and -- narrowly, on a 3-2 vote -- to impose fairly limited restrictions in a Consent Order relating to the use of standards-essential patents, basically saying that Google has to give the other party a clear opportunity to commit to accepting a court determination of FRAND terms, where Google may include a requirement for reciprocal licensing, before it seeks an injunction.

This isn't a loss for the FTC or Google, but it may be a loss for the Google competitors that have been pushing for antitrust action.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42465967)

'scraping Web content from rivals and allegedly passing it off as its own'

uhh looks like their search engine business is over? i mean really, people go to google first before their rivals.

Use of language (2)

Sheetrock (152993) | about a year and a half ago | (#42465995)

Also among the business practices Google has agreed to stop is 'scraping Web content from rivals and allegedly passing it off as its own, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.'"

So, would there be a problem if Google scraped Web content from rivals and proudly proclaimed it was passing it off as its own?

Huh? (1)

alostpacket (1972110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42469463)

I think allegedly is used correctly. Maybe if it read " 'scraping Web content from rivals and sheepishly passing it off as its own, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.' Then I would be a bit confused :)

That said, the language of the TFS and timothy's editorializing Google as "soft-pedaling" are pretty lame click-trolling. The biggest complaint was the search results (not mentioned in TFS, or even the slashcloud article at all). The FRAND patent stuff was a recent addition to the now-closed investigation.

Re:Use of language (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471653)

"Allegedly" because, even though Google is agreeing not to do something, it isn't admitting that it did anything.
This is the regulatory and rhetorical mess that results from settlements with no admission of guilt.

Seriously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42466123)

It should be against the law to settle anti-trust cases. They should all go to court.

Re:Seriously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42466301)

are you offering to pay the legal fees?

Re:Seriously... (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466303)

This is "settle" in the layman's terms as opposed to legal terms. Technically, the case against Google hadn't even been brought yet. The FTC is walking away because they know they don't have a case because, quite fankly, a lot of the complaints were ridiculous. Oh, youtube is the first result? What a freaking surprise, it's the largest video site on the net by an order of magnitude. Not to mention that Google services often aren't the top result in searches for those services. There are legitimate issues with some of their API's and some of their ad selling, but nothing that comes close to warranting the kind of expenses that a federal anti-trust case would generate (both for Google and the FTC).

Re:Seriously... (0)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471733)

The FTC's budget was 292 million in 2011. [ftc.gov]
Google has $40~$50 billion in liquid cash just sitting around an not being spent.

Hence, most regulatory actions get settled because these companies are too big to prosecute.
If we funded our regulatory bodies like we fund the military, we could afford an army of lawers to keep corporate America from stepping out of line.

Re:Seriously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42474383)

Yes and once a year everyone should stand trial for first degree murder, just in case they really did kill someone in the previous year.

This is as it should be (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42466345)

Google essentially won here, and that's exactly how it should be. The government has no place telling Google what it can and cannot do on its own website - they're guaranteed freedom of speech, and Google.com is the outlet for that speech. They have every right to order search results however the hell they want to, and it's good to see that the feds didn't decide otherwise.

The other concessions have a bit more basis in reality, but it's bullshit that Motorola can't seek injunctions for technology that made mobile phones possible while asshole companies like Apple and MS can seek injunctions for rounded corners.

Re:This is as it should be (2)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467387)

Google unfairly ranking their own products higher on their search engines would be an abuse of monopoly power. It's not as damaging as a state-run newspaper praising the government, but it has a lot of the same effects.

Re:This is as it should be (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467735)

You how is it unfair to recommend your own product above others? Microsoft still packages ie with windows they just have to allows it to be removed just as Google also shows other peoples products.

Re:This is as it should be (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467965)

Their search information is presented as a collection of unbiased facts. It's not like they're saying "Like Google? Try Google Plus" - it's more like responding to search queries for "most popular social network" with a link to Google+ as the first result.

The browser ballot screen that the EU requires Microsoft to use shows the top 5 browsers in random order. They aren't even allowed to put their own first.

Re:This is as it should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42468573)

No, their search results are very clearly "we think that these are the best answers for your query". There's a big difference there.

Re:This is as it should be (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472987)

If you are a monopoly, you are not free to do things other businesses are free to do. For example, you are restricted in using your monopoly in one market to influence another market. This was what Microsoft did when they gave away their browser with their (monopoly) OS. In the same way, Google seems to have a monopoly in the search engine market. If they placed their own products higher than their competitors, that could be using their monopoly to influence other markets, and that could be illegal. Whether it is also unfair is up to your feeling of fairness.

But the FTC found that they didn't do that (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468529)

Google unfairly ranking their own products higher on their search engines would be an abuse of monopoly power.

It might have been, if they did that, but the FTC investigated that claim and didn't find support for it, saying [ftc.gov] :

In sum, we find that the evidence presented at this time does not support the allegation that Google’s display of its own vertical content at or near the top of its search results page was a product design change undertaken without a legitimate business justification. Rather, we conclude that Google’s display of its own content could plausibly be viewed as an improvement in the overall quality of Google’s search product. Similarly, we have not found sufficient evidence that Google manipulates its search algorithms to unfairly disadvantage vertical websites that compete with Google-owned vertical properties. Although at points in time various vertical websites have experienced demotions, we find that this was a consequence of algorithm changes that also could plausibly be viewed as an improvement in the overall quality of Google’s search results.

Although our careful review of the evidence in this matter supports our decision to close this investigation, we will remain vigilant and continue to monitor Google for conduct that may harm competition and consumers.

Re:But the FTC found that they didn't do that (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468751)

I said "would be" I didn't say "was." I know that Google doesn't do that. I was responding to a parent post that said it would be perfectly fine if Google did so, and some garbage about free speech.

Re:But the FTC found that they didn't do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471805)

Google was actively lobbying against the investigation from the moment it started.
They hired former FTC staffers and lawyers, sent lobbyists to meet with politicians, etc etc etc

That kind of full court press usually pays off, regardless of the case's merits: How Google beat the feds [politico.com]

FUCK THE STOCK MARKET (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42466359)

and the horse it rode in on.

FUCK YOU TOO

Hmm (2)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466435)

Scraped content is against Google' s own webmaster guidelines, where were they passing it off as their own?

Re:Hmm (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466473)

Exactly.

My personal opinion (that I am sure can be picked at) is that if what google does with previews violates copyright, then so does (did?) the newsagent that puts a copy of the newspaper in their window. There is no doubt in either case where the original content comes from *and* it's for promo purposes.

Re:Hmm (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42469989)

My personal opinion (that I am sure can be picked at) is that if what google does with previews violates copyright, then so does (did?) the newsagent that puts a copy of the newspaper in their window.

Congratulations, you have proven your nickname to be valid. Using the item itself to sell the item is legal regardless of any copyrights or design patents. You can't use its likeness, but you can use it, so you can put the item in the window but you can't put a picture of the window in the paper.

Re:Hmm (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472533)

You want to put a picture of your window with the newspaper in it in the newspaper and then put the paper with your window in your window? Just make sure you have an exit case.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42466829)

They had scraped reviews off of sites like Yelp to use in their Google Places reviews, for example.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42467167)

So why didn't the sites sue for copyright infringement?

Oh, I know, because they knew they would lose. What Google was doing here was completely legal and fell under fair use, but they felt they needed to complain anyway.

Re:Hmm (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42467539)

They own Zagat, and the Google Places reviews come from Google+ users. They used to scrape snippets of text from around the web - and linked and cited them, but never entire reviews unless they were so short as to be not very useful.

curious that the patent agreement is even needed (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42466475)

All Google agreed was that the patents it holds which are essential to the implementation of certain mobile-telephony standards will be licensed under FRAND terms [wikipedia.org] . They didn't agree to let them be used for free or anything.

Why weren't those already the terms? Standards bodies are supposed to, if they're doing their job, approve standards with some kind of FRAND licensing condition, in order for the standards to actually function as standards. The point of a standard is that everyone making a device with a certain kind of functionality is supposed to conform to certain agreed ("standard") behavior. To do that, they have to be able to legally able to implement the standard, which means any patents essential to the implementation need to be generally available to any third party for licensing, on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

Re:curious that the patent agreement is even neede (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42467495)

This is a political statement, the politicians look like they're doing something, Google appears to have been reprimanded, but in reality, no change was made. The patents are already and have been under FRAND. The real FRAND, not the Apple definition ("F stands for Free!")

Re:curious that the patent agreement is even neede (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42482647)

Except that Motorola never offered them for 'free'. They wanted substantial trade off's from Apple in order to offer the patents, and a ridiculous cost per device while others payed substantially less. The cross licensing requirement is something which the FRAND agreement states cannot be required as a condition. Although many companies might agree to such trades, they cannot be forced to give up their own valuable copyrights and/or licensing as a condition for licensing a FRAND patent. It was idiotic that they tried to do this, and it's the primary reason they dropped all FRAND related lawsuits in the UK. They were about to get their asses handed to them if they didn't.

Re:curious that the patent agreement is even neede (4, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468605)

All Google agreed was that the patents it holds which are essential to the implementation of certain mobile-telephony standards will be licensed under FRAND terms [wikipedia.org]. They didn't agree to let them be used for free or anything. Why weren't those already the terms?

Google is required by the Consent Order to make a very specific offer regarding FRAND licensing (to the point that the order includes fill-in-the-blank demand letters Google is to use) before seeking injunctive relief; the FTC sees this as a correction to Google/MMI's past approach in these cases where, in the FTC's view, Google/MMI didn't do as much as it should have regarding seeking a FRAND licensing commitment before seeking injunctive relief.

Its not really a big loss for Google, since Google would be quite happy for other parties to have the option of making the commitment that the letter offers instead of going through an injunction process (which allows Google to demand reciprocal licensing as part of the offer), and even moreso Google would be quite happy with the FTC's stated intent that the proposed approach would become a general model for handling of disputes centered on the use of standards-essential patents.

MS again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42467227)

There is more funny version of this on readwrite (dot) com. Sounds like Microsoft was very involved in this.

Google did not bias search results .. (3, Informative)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year and a half ago | (#42468013)

"regarding the specific allegations [ftc.gov] that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission .. The evidence did not demonstrate that Google's actions in this area stifled competition in violation of U.S. law".

Re:Google did not bias search results .. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471223)

What about bundling?

MS was guilty of budling IE in with Windows.

Isn't Google bundling Maps and everything else into their search?

Google seems to be arguing that the bundling is "universal search" and helps consumers. But doesn't it help consumers to have a basic browser in an OS?

Re:Google did not bias search results .. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471937)

MS didn't just get nailed for bundling IE, but for strong-arming Dell, HP, Gateway, etc. to not allow another browser and to not sell PCs without Windows. Additionally they tied IE into the OS itself in such a way as consumer had less choice. With Google, it's a matter of typing http://someothersearchengine.whatever/ [someothers...e.whatever] to use an alternative service. To replace Windows it was a matter of installing another OS entirely. Context and scale matters, not just the bundling of products.

Personally I never had issue with MS bundling products, but integrating them so that they cant have defaults replaced, was a step to far. Embrace, extend, extinguish.

They are of course still up to their tricks...
Windows Phone 7 will work with third party browsers, so long as they're based on IE
http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/17/windows-phone-7-will-work-with-third-party-browsers-so-long-as/ [engadget.com]

A very sad day (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42469593)

For the Microsoft shills and companies involved with FairSearch. All of Microsoft's lobbying, attack ads and smear campaigns have failed yet again.

An Ode to Transparecy! (1)

Julian Wordsmith (2807863) | about a year and a half ago | (#42500897)

Wow the case and its verdict really talks a load about the FTC initiative to drive transparency and equal access to new technology. BTW Google is fighting a similar case in EU. Details Here [cbronline.com]
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