Google free to extend web search lead as U.S. FTC ends probe

Google Concessions

Google made some concessions, agreeing in a letter to the FTC to let websites remove their content from focused search services like Google Shopping or Google Local without removing or demoting that content in the main Google search engine.

Advertisers will also be able to compare data from other search engines within third-party services that use Google’s AdWords software, Google said in a blog post yesterday. The FTC said the commitments are enforceable.

The FTC’s resolution of the matter is “weak and -- frankly -- unusual,” Dave Heiner, a Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a blog post yesterday.

“Google has long said that it merely aims to offer customers the most relevant answer to their query, and the FTC commissioners accepted that view,” Heiner said. “Yet we know that Google routinely and systematically heavily promotes its own services in search results.”

“Is Google+ really more relevant than Facebook?” he asked. “Are Google’s travel results better than those offered by Expedia, Kayak and others?”

‘Hand-to-Hand Combat’

Search-engine competitors made many of the same product- design choices Google did, “suggesting that this practice benefits consumers,” Leibowitz said yesterday.

Some companies or people may think the agency should do more “because they are locked in hand-to-hand combat with Google around the world and have the mistaken belief that criticizing us will influence the outcome in other jurisdictions,” Leibowitz said.

Google also agreed in a consent decree to limitations on when it can seek to bar sales of competitors’ products that rely on so-called standard-essential patents. Industry-standard technology helps ensure products such as mobile phone antennas and global-positioning system software can operate together when made by different manufacturers.

Google paid $12.4 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, an early pioneer in the mobile-phone market, in part to get access to its standard-essential patents. Motorola Mobility has been locked in licensing disputes with Microsoft and Apple Inc. in courts and at the U.S. International Trade Commission over their use of those patents in smartphones, tablets and gaming systems.

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