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.

Google says Apple patent lawsuit dismissed

SAN FRANCISCO, Mon Nov 5, 2012 – A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit by Apple Inc alleging that Google Inc.-owned Motorola’s patent licensing practices were unfair, Google said on Monday.

Apple had been set to square off against Motorola on Monday in a trial in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisconsin, involving Google’s use of the library of patents it acquired along with Motorola for $12.5 billion in May.

“We’re pleased that the court has dismissed Apple’s lawsuit with prejudice,” a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Monday.

Dismissal of a case with prejudice means the case is over at the trial court level, though it can be appealed.

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Motorola has long offered licensing to our extensive patent portfolio at a reasonable and

non-discriminatory rate in line with industry standards,” Google said in its statement. “We remain interested in reaching an agreement with Apple.”

Oracle-Google judge ends probe into paid bloggers

SAN FRANCISCO, Thu Sep 6, 2012 – The federal judge overseeing a major lawsuit over smartphone technology between Oracle Corp. and Google Inc. has quietly ended his examination of those companies’ relationships with paid bloggers and other commentators.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco had shocked the legal and blogging communities on Aug. 7 by demanding names of “print or Internet authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers” on the companies’ payrolls.

The judge at the time expressed concern that payments might have influenced writings about the case. Legal experts questioned the breadth of the order, including whether it could violate the writers’ First Amendment free speech rights.

But in an order issued on Tuesday, after Oracle and Google had submitted lists of names, Alsup said he would “take no further action regarding the subject of payments by the litigants to commentators and journalists.”

He also said no commentaries had influenced his rulings in the case, other than “any treatise or article” he cited expressly.

Alsup has not revealed what prompted his Aug. 7 order.

Google to cut 4,000 Motorola Mobility jobs, take $275 million charge

Mon Aug 13, 2012 – Google Inc. said it would cut 20 percent of the workforce of Motorola Mobility, the money-losing cellphone maker it bought for $12.5 billion last year, and shut nearly a third of Motorola’s offices worldwide.

The news sent Google’s shares up as much as 1.5 percent and Morgan Stanley also upgraded the company to “overweight.”

Motorola Mobility has lost money in fourteen of the last sixteen quarters and in its latest quarter reported an operating loss of $233 million on revenue of $1.25 billion.

“These changes are designed to return Motorola’s mobile devices unit to profitability,” Google said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Google had evaded questions about its plans for Motorola Mobility when it reported quarterly results last month, saying it was yet to complete its homework on the various businesses.

“While lower expenses are likely to lag the immediate negative impact to revenue, Google sees these actions as a key step for Motorola to achieve sustainable profitability,” Google said on Monday.

Morgan Stanley said Google may bring more discipline to Motorola Mobility than was assumed.

“We see management becoming somewhat more communicative, having recently enumerated key strategic growth areas, and cancelling underperforming projects,” analysts at the brokerage wrote in a client note.

“We believe that Google is planning to reduce Motorola Mobility’s smartphone portfolio to a few reference Android devices, and perhaps a couple of tablet devices.”

Google expects to take a severance-related charge of up to $275 million mostly in the third quarter, it said in the filing.

Google, which expects to record the remaining severance-related costs by the end of 2012, said it could also incur other related restructuring charges mainly in the third quarter.

Google to pay $22.5 million to settle privacy charges: WSJ

PALO ALTO, Calif., Tue Jul 10, 2012 – Google Inc. is close to paying $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s Safari browser, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials briefed on the settlement terms.
The fine would be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Journal said late Monday.
The charges involve Google’s use of special computer code, or “cookies,” to trick Apple’s Safari browser so Google could monitor users that had blocked such tracking, the newspaper said.
Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Journal. According to Google, tracking of Apple users was inadvertent and did not cause any harm to consumers, the newspaper reported.
“The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page. We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies,” Google told the Journal.
Google also faces potential sanctions from other governments. It is being investigated by the European Union to determine if the company complies with Europe’s stricter privacy laws, the Journal reported.
An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment to the Journal.
Google and FTC could not be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

Apple, Google to face off in key smartphone hearing

CHICAGO, Wed Jun 20, 2012 – Apple Inc. will try to salvage a high-profile lawsuit against Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit on Wednesday at a crucial hearing in the smartphone patent wars between the two tech companies.

Federal Judge Richard Posner in Chicago will hear Apple argue why it should be able to seek an order barring the sale of some Motorola phones. Posner’s decision could affect the iPhone maker’s ability to negotiate favorable licensing agreements in its legal fights against Motorola and other competitors like Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Apple has waged an international patent war since 2010, part of its attempt to limit growth of Google’s Android, the world’s best-selling mobile operating platform. Opponents of Apple, meanwhile, say it is using patents too aggressively in its bid to stamp out the competition.

Motorola sued Apple in October 2010, a move widely seen as a preemptive strike. Apple filed its own claims against Motorola the same month.

Posner issued a series of pretrial rulings that eliminated nearly all of Motorola’s patent claims against Apple, while maintaining more of Apple’s claims against Motorola. That meant Apple had more to gain at the trial, which had been set to start last week.

Yahoo hires former Google director to lead ad revenue

SAN FRANCISCO, Mon Jun 18, 2012 – Yahoo Inc. has hired former Google director and media veteran Michael Barrett to help lead its efforts to re-emerge as an entertainment and information destination that wins advertising revenue.

Barrett, who will take the title of Chief Revenue Officer, is one of new interim CEO Ross Levinsohn’s first key appointments, underscoring signs that Yahoo – a company that has suffered from strategy flip-flops under successive CEOs – is now thinking of itself as more of a media company than a technology company.

Those close to Levinsohn have said he is committed to building out Yahoo’s own video programming and striking more syndication deals in pursuit of ads that command a higher price.

This will be the second time that Barrett and Levinsohn have worked together. Both were once at Fox Interactive Media where Barrett also held the title of Chief Revenue Officer and oversaw worldwide revenue for properties including MySpace and FoxSports.com.

Barrett was most recently at Google where he led integration efforts following the acquisition of digital advertising platform Admeld Inc. where he served as CEO.

He will assume his new position in July and be responsible for Yahoo’s ad revenue and operations globally.

Apple expected to unveil applications to take on Google

SAN FRANCISCO, Mon Jun 11, 2012 – When Apple Inc. kicks off its annual conference for software developers on Monday, all the power players in the Apple universe will be on hand, save the one that is in many ways driving the agenda: Google Inc.

More than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant – in smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.

Apple on Monday is expected to announce its own mapping application, challenging the position of Google Maps as one of the most-valued features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its iPhone apps and iCloud storage service with all its devices, the latest riposte in its battle with Google’s Android smartphone software.

It may promote the latest in Siri, the voice interface that the company thinks can continue to set the iPhone and the iPad apart from the Android pack.

And there will likely be a new line of Macintosh laptops too – underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware products can bring to what is mainly a software war with Google.

Apple is looking to differentiate its mobile devices from Google’s Android by further enticing consumers deeper into its app ecosystem, said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner Research.

“It’s all about loyalty and basically leveraging the opportunity of selling more to them,” she said. “I don’t think the consumers in the mass market are necessarily tied into the Android ecosystem in the same way that consumers on the Apple side are.”

Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different weapons. Apple’s vise-like grip on its ecosystem – with the closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the hardware – stands in sharp contrast to Google’s free-for-all approach.

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.”

Google did not infringe Oracle patents: jury in smartphone trial

SAN FRANCISCO, Wed May 23, 2012 – Google Inc.’s Android mobile platform has not infringed Oracle’s patents, a California jury decided in a high stakes trial fought by the two Silicon Valley giants over smartphone technology.

The verdict was delivered on Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court, and confirmed by a Google spokesman. An Oracle attorney declined to comment on the decision.

Because the same jury could not unanimously agree on the copyright allegations earlier in the case, the latest verdict on patents effectively puts an indefinite hold on Oracle’s quest for damages. Oracle at one point was seeking roughly $1 billion in damages.

The jury found earlier that Oracle had proven copyright infringement for parts of Java. But the jury could not unanimously agree on whether Google could fairly use that material.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, saying Android infringes on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language. Google says it does not violate Oracle’s patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an “open-source” or publicly available software language.

Without a finding against Google on that fair use question, Oracle cannot recover damages on the bulk of its copyright claims.