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Google likely to settle with FTC on patents, reports say

Reuters says a partial settlement with the government could come this week or next.

Casey Newton Former Senior Writer
Casey Newton writes about Google for CNET, which he joined in 2012 after covering technology for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is really quite tall.
Casey Newton
2 min read

The Federal Trade Commission is nearing a partial settlement with Google in its long-running antitrust investigation, according to reports today from Politico and Reuters.

Both outlets, citing sources familiar with the matter, said Google is prepared to agree not to use its patent war chest to block the sale of products it believes infringe on its intellectual property. The agreement would cover what are known as standard essential patents, which cover technology used in technical standards. (Reuters uses the example of a patent that ensures one brand of wireless phone can call another brand.)

Google has used those patents in litigation around the world as part of the ongoing patent wars among device manufacturers. But at least one federal judge has ruled that standard essential patents can't be used to win injunctions, and a majority of FTC commissioners have ruled in recent cases that such a use of essential patents can be considered anticompetitive.

According to Reuters, the settlement would leave room for Google to request an injunction if an infringing company refused to negotiate a license.

It remains unclear what will happen in the other aspect of the investigation, which concerns how Google displays results from its own products and those of its rivals. Companies that offer results in categories like travel and local recommendations have said Google unfairly promotes its own search products over theirs.

Politico suggested the FTC may leave that case to the European Commission, which has mounted an investigation of its own. Reuters reported that some Google competitors, sensing a possible defeat, are taking their case to the Justice Department.

A partial settlement over the patent issues could come this week or next, Reuters said.