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.

FTC picks legal sharpshooter for U.S. probe of Google

WASHINGTON, Thu May 31, 2012 – When the Federal Trade Commission recently intensified its probe of Internet giant Google, it hired the high-powered Washington lawyer who helped send Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to the death chamber.

With little anti-trust experience but a long record of victory, Beth Wilkinson built a reputation as a tough litigator with cases like that of McVeigh and the defense of Big Tobacco against smokers’ lawsuits, and her hiring was seen by some as a sign that the FTC was contemplating a suit against Google.

Alternatively, anti-trust experts said, the agency could be using Wilkinson’s reputation to push Google to settle, essentially saying: Deal with us at the negotiating table or you’ll deal with her in court.

FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch, who met Wilkinson when they practiced law together, said he worked with her 11 years ago on her first anti-trust case and was impressed by her determination.

The case never went to trial, but Wilkinson insisted on going ahead with a planned mock trial.

“At the time, I said ‘I’m going back to San Francisco,'” said Rosch. “She stayed for the rest of the mock and she won the mock. She’s a quick study … and she’s very diligent.”