Google, the target of a number of complaints for abuse of dominant position, has just won a round in its legal battle in the United States against its online search engine competitors. But it was also obliged to make binding commitments on its use of patents on essential technologies in the area of mobile telecommunications. The EU opened an investigation in November 2010 but has not yet issued its verdict on these practices on its territory, though it is expected to impose more restrictive measures on Google.
The US competition authority, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), acknowledged, on 3 January, that while Google's search engine is designed to give priority to its own products in search results, subsequent changes made to the algorithms could "plausibly" be justified as innovations that improved the experience of its users. The FTC therefore closed its anti-trust investigation opened against Google in June 2011.
"The evidence did not show that Google's measures in this area were shutting out competition in breach of American law," explained Beth Wilkinson, an external adviser to the FTC. "The conclusion is clear: Google's services are good for users and good for competition," applauded David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, in the group's official blog. "This was an incredibly thorough and careful investigation by the Commission and the outcome is a strong and enforceable set of agreements," assured FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
The American firm agreed, on a purely voluntary basis, to end restrictions applied by its online advertising platform AdWords, so as to give more flexibility to advertisers who wish to promote their products on competing platforms as well as on AdWords. Sites may also keep content from being listed in the Google search results, such as users' reviews of restaurants or hotels, lifted and copied by Google.
Microsoft, which commented the day before that the FTC was not being firm enough with Google, referred, on the evening of 3 January, to a "missed opportunity" in a...