SAN JOSE, Calif. – Google has agreed to drop cases in the U.S. that seek injunctions against competitors alleged to have violated standards-essential patents acquired from Motorola. The consent order was one requirement the U.S. Federal Trade Commission made as a condition of ending its 19-month investigationinto anti-competitive practices at the search giant.
The deal gives Android competitors such as Apple and Microsoft an edge in on-going mobile patent wars. Less clear is its long term impact on the debate over how to handle licensing for standards-essential patents.
The consent order prohibits Google from seeking injunctions against a willing licensee of a standards-essential patent, either in U.S. federal court or at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The FTC did not immediately list which cases or patents were involved in the agreement, but it did say the cases were brought by Motorola before it was acquired by Google.
Separately, Google also agreed to stop two questionable practices related to its search advertising business. As part of its investigation, the FTC decided Google’s search engine is not inherently biased against competitors
In a blog post, Google’s chief legal officer suggested the deal provides some wiggle room. “We will seek to resolve standard-essential patent disputes through a neutral third party before seeking injunctions,” wrote David Drummond.
FTC commissioners approved the the order in a 4-to-1 vote. Proponents said the deal protects the standards process and sheds light on how to handle fair and reasonable (FRAND) licensing for standards-essential patents (SEP). One commissioner strongly disagreed.