It’s not the knockout that competitors were hoping for or the total dismissal that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) wanted, but the Federal Trade Commission has finally ended its year-and-a-half long anti-trust investigation into the search giant. The result: a slap on the wrist.
Google faced a number of allegations from companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and Yelp (NYSE:YELP), who all had separate but related bones to pick. Emerging from a national conversation on Google’s role in business and culture, coalitions like Fairsearch became activists against the alleged antitrust behavior.
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The American Consumer Institute for Citizen Research, a nonprofit research institute, commented: “As Google’s dominance grows, consumers have become extremely concerned about the search giant’s control of the marketplace, entrance into new markets, and a seeming indifference to the protection of privacy and the law in general. Letting Google off with a letter promising not to do it again is like believing Lindsay Lohan will stay out of trouble this time.”
One actionable rule that came out of the deal states that Google must allow anybody to license standard-essential patents under “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” terms, and it can not litigate against anybody using a standard-essential patent who previously committed to license it. This is widely seen to take the bite out of Google’s purchase of Motorola, which came packed with 24,000 patents or applications that competitors were afraid Google would abuse.
Google has also agreed to give advertising customers more access to APIs, and must allow sites like Yelp to opt out of inclusion in certain services. Yelp has accused Google of pulling their data and including it in vertical searches, removing a user’s need to visit original site.
Allegations that Google was prioritizing its own search results ahead of others were also dropped. At the end of the day, David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president and chief legal officer, commented: “The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.”
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