Google’s FTC Deal Could Alter Landscape of Patent Wars

January 9, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

San Diego – The deal Google struck with the Federal Trade Commission last week has received a lot of attention and many are hoping it will curtail the ongoing technology patent wars, which most agree have gotten out of control.

In the deal struck between the two entities, the FTC ruled that Google has not violated antitrust law, much to the disappointment of many of the company’s critics.  The decision came after a two-year investigation of the way Google handles licensing of its industry-standard patents to its competitors.  Google had to agree to allow its competitors access to its industry standard patents, something it had previously fought hard to prevent.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said during a press conference that the patent agreement could serve as a model for other patent disputes and it could reduce patent litigation, at least in the technology sector.

As Google and Apple, two of the largest players in the technology world, spent more money on acquiring and protecting their intellectual property last year than they did on research and development, anything that can decrease those costs may benefit the companies and their customers.

At the center of the deal between the FTC and Google is the technology giant’s purchase of Motorola Mobility, which Google bought in part for Motorola’s 17,000 tech patents.  Many of these patents are standard-essential patents, which Google is required to license to its competitors on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

The FTC’s investigation began when Motorola reneged on its agreement to license its patents according to FRAND terms.  When Google acquired Motorola, it continued to refuse licensing of industry-standard patents and began seeking injunctions to prohibit competitive products that contained its patented technology from entering the country.  Conduct like this may decrease competition and increase prices, which could hurt consumers.

Google senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond said, “We will seek to resolve standard-essential patent disputes through a neutral third-party before seeking injunctions.  This agreement establishes clear rules of the road for standard-essential patents going forward.”

Though the FTC’s deal with Google is not binding on any other company, it is speculated that other technology companies will use the terms of the agreement as a guide for the licensing of industry-standard patents.