FTC Backs Google Lawsuit Over Smartphone Patents


The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly in favour of suing Google for allegedly blocking access to its smartphone and video patents

Five commissioners at the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are reportedly in favour of suing Google because of its attempts to stop rivals accessing its smartphone patents.

The development emerged in a Bloomberg report, quoting four people familiar with the matter, which claimed an FTC report had officially recommended the American government sue Google for violating US antitrust law.

That report declined to name the source, but according to Reuters the reason that Google is in trouble is because it has asked courts to stop the sale of some products it feels infringes its patents.

Smartphone patents

It seems the FTC report has formally recommended this warrants suing Google. Reportedly, a majority of the agency’s five commissioners are inclined to do just that.

However a decision to sue to Google will not be taken until after the US presidential elections on 6 November.

Patents, Law © Gor Shutterstock 2012It is believed Google has been seeking to prevent devices from Microsoft and Apple from being imported into the United States. The tech giant has also conducted similar campaigns in other courts across the globe.

Google has claimed these devices, which are said to rely on industry-standard technology, infringes patents owned by Motorola Mobility, which Google now owns.

“We take our commitments to license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms very seriously and are happy to answer any questions,” Niki Fenwick, a Google spokeswoman was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. A spokesman for the FTC declined to comment.

Google admitted in June it had received notice the FTC had officially begun an investigation, but this was concerning its search business. Then in early July it was revealed the FTC was investigating Google’s Motorola Mobility unit over claims it was not fulfilling licensing commitments it made when its patents were adopted as industry standards.

Fair access?

Motorola was supposed to offer licensing for its technology on fair and reasonable terms but some have questioned whether it is doing so. The industry standards in question are said to relate to Wi-Fi, 3G wireless and video streaming standards.

At the time of Google’s acquisition of Motorola, there was a lot of concern from rivals the move would give Google an overly-powerful patent war chest. Google had previously promised to give fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory access to the Motorola licences.

But despite these promises, rivals remained unhappy and Microsoft filed a complaint against Motorola Mobility with the European Commission in February. It claimed Motorola was using its FRAND patents to block product sales, an allegation also levelled by Apple.

Microsoft has gone on record as sayingMotorola had tried to block the sales of Windows PCs and Xbox game consoles, accusing Motorola of wanting extortionate royalties for using its patents, such as one necessary for the H.264 video standard.

The FTC is also reportedly concerned at Google’s continued pursuit of litigation started by Motorola, before it became owner of the company.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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