Google to be probed over Motorola patents

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Google's use of Motorola's patents.

Is Google playing fair since its acquisition of Motorola? That's the question being asked by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US.

The commission has issued a civil investigative demand to find out whether Google is licensing industry-standard technology on fair terms. The company behind Android ha promised it would, but is it staying true to its word? Looks like we'll find out soon.

Three people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg of the FTC's plans. Combine this with the couple of recent high-profile court decisions in Apple's favour versus Samsung and Android, and it looks like Google's practices are getting a serious going over at the moment.

The FTC will ask for information from Microsoft and Apple. The patents in question let Google license technologies that help operate 3G, Wi-Fi and video streaming. Also in the spotlight is the fact Google carried on with Motorola's court case against Apple after buying the Illinois-based company.

The patents are known as FRAND -- fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. They're enforced to ensure everyone can operate on a more-or-less even playing field, and also to help key technologies work together so everyone's mobiles and tablets play nice with each other. In short, they're for the good of the industry and consumers, so anyone charging extortionate amounts or licensing them unfairly otherwise deserves a good telling off.

A Google spokesperson said: "We take our commitments to license on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms very seriously and are happy to answer any questions."

The FTC is already looking into whether Google unfairly promotes its own products and services above others in search results. The European Competition Commission is carrying out its own investigation, and has given the deadline of early July for Google to prove itself innocent. That'll be right about now, then.

Is all this attention on Google warranted? Or is it being unfairly scrutinised because of its size? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

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