updated 10:41 pm EST, Tue December 11, 2012
Google expected to be forced to license FRAND patents
According to sources close to the Federal Trade Commission's negotiations with Google, the search engine could reach a deal this week regarding the use and licensing of Google-owned patents. Little information is available in regards to the terms of the settlement, and discussions are still ongoing, but the final settlement is likely to provide Google an avenue to continue legal cases involving its patents -- with the exception of those acquired with the purchase of Motorola Mobility. If true, the settlement could mean a major victory for both Apple and Microsoft.
On Monday, the FTC's Bureau of Competition was scheduled to meet with Google representatives to discuss the settlement regarding the patents, as well as an outstanding antitrust investigation involving how Google ranks its search results. "We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have," a Google spokesman said. The FTC refused comment regarding the negotiations.
Sources close to the negotiations believe that the agreement would resemble a similar case involving industry standards in the air-conditioning market. The commission voted in November to force AC equipment manufacturer Bosch to not pursue injunctions against competitors who were using its standards-essential patents in competing products, and accept licensing and financial awards instead. Some observers say the FTC may be giving Google preferential treatment if the settlement falls short of the Bosch standard. A source close to the case said that "this is not a question about finding the optimal outcome from a policy perspective, but it is an enforcement action against Google as an aggressor."
An amicus curae brief filed last week with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals by the FTC stated that it agreed with the decision to prevent Motorola from blocking Apple's products from sale because of patents allegedly being infringed by the Cupertino-based designer and manufacturer. The FTC cites potential harm to the competitive market, leading to higher prices for consumers. Both Apple and Microsoft have been among the most prominent tech companies fighting Motorola and Google over what they characterize as SEP abuse, and manipulation of Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) licensing standards.