Google pact with FTC could affect other patent disputes

NEW YORK, Sun Jan 6, 2013 — While the focus of last week’s agreement between the Federal Trade Commission and Google Inc. was search, the deal’s restrictions on how Google uses its patents could have a broader impact on the technology industry.

Under the deal, which ended an antitrust investigation by the FTC and disappointed many critics, Google will make only minor changes to its search business.

But Google is also now limited in when it can seek injunctions against products from rival companies that use certain of its patents.

Throughout recent smartphone wars and other major patent litigation, holders of so-called standard essential patents have been accused of using them to bully competitors into paying high licensing rates or as leverage in patent disputes.

The FTC’s deal with Google clarifies the uncertainty over how standard essential patents can be used, said Colleen Chien, a professor specializing in patent law at Santa Clara University School of Law in California.