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Google (GOOG) Settles FTC Antitrust Probe, To Change Business Practices

 January 03, 2013 01:58 PM

(By Balachander) Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has agreed to change some of its business practices to resolve Federal Trade Commission (FTC) competition concerns in the markets for devices like smart phones, games and tablets, and in online search.

Under a settlement reached with the FTC, Google will meet its prior commitments to allow competitors access to patents on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles.

Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google's AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms, according to the FTC.

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Advertisers will now be able to mix and copy ad campaign data within third-party services that use Google AdWords API, Google wrote in a blog post. Websites can now remove content (for example reviews) from specialized search results pages, such as local, travel and shopping.

The company will remove restrictions hampering advertisers' management of their ad campaigns across competing ad platforms.

The search engine giant also agreed to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called "vertical" websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings.

In addition, the FTC said it conducted a extensive probe into allegations that Google biased its search results to disadvantage certain vertical websites; and that Google entered into anticompetitive exclusive agreements for the distribution of Google Search on both desktop and in the mobile arena.

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The agency said it decided not to take action in connection with these allegations.

"The evidence the FTC uncovered through this intensive investigation prompted us to require significant changes in Google's business practices," said Beth Wilkinson, outside counsel to the Commission. "However, regarding the specific allegations that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission."

The FTC also said Google will not seek injunctions to block rivals from using patents essential to key technologies.

In 2012, Google paid about $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility (MMI), including MMI's patent portfolio of over 24,000 patents and patent applications.

"We've always accepted that with success comes regulatory scrutiny," said David Drummond, Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.  "But we're pleased that the FTC and the other authorities that have looked at Google's business practices....have concluded that we should be free to combine direct answers with web results."



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