updated 11:54 pm EST, Thu January 3, 2013
Blog post decries FTC actions; calls it 'missed opportunity'
In the wake of the Federal Trade Commission's announcement of the conclusion of its probe of potentially anti-competitive actions by Google, Microsoft has chimed in on the ruling. A blog post by Microsoft Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner slams the "weak" ruling by the FTC, calling it "troubling" and "unusual." The Microsoft attorney believes that the FTC erred by not forcing Google to submit to a document enforcing consequences if the search engine giant reverted to its previous practices.
Microsoft assaults the consent decree levied against Google, saying that "we are puzzled and concerned that the FTC did not follow its standard practice in exercising due diligence by obtaining feedback from the industry on the specific terms of Google's promise before accepting it as a suitable resolution of this matter." The FTC generally calls for input from other members potentially affected by an investigation for insight on matters under consideration, and did not do so during its investigation of Google. There is no formal requirement for the FTC to open investigations up for public comment, however.
Heiner goes on to state that "Google promised the standards community that it would make its standards-essential patents available to all firms on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms. But then Google sought exorbitant royalties from firms implementing industry standards -- rates as high as a thousand times those charged by others with larger patent portfolios reading on the same standards." Microsoft noted that neither Microsoft nor Apple have filed injunction suits against any company for the use of standards-essential patents, and that the Department of Justice exacted significantly higher penalties against both last year for patent-related issues.
In something of a self-interested statement by the Redmond software developer, the attorney also decries Google continuing to not offer a "high-quality YouTube app for the Windows Phone" where it is under no formal obligation to do so itself, and notes that contracts signed by websites and distributors require Google exclusivity, which has, according to Microsoft, "plagued competition in the search market for years." A steep fine, opening of Google databases up to public scrutiny, or enforced contract renegotiation with websites bound by Google-only deals would benefit Microsoft's efforts with its own search engine, Bing.
Others writing negatively about the FTC's settlement with Google include Yelp, which was directly affected by the company's scraping of business data to promote its own services, and antitrust attorney Gary Reback.