Microsoft this evening criticized the U.S. Federal Trade Commission‘s newly announced antitrust agreements with Google — calling the outcome of the 19-month investigation into the search giant “weak,” “unusual,” and “a missed opportunity” to truly reform the way the search giant does business.
The agreements, announced earlier today, included commitments by Google to license its key patents to competitors on non-discriminatory terms; to make it easier for advertisers to run campaigns on competing ad platforms; and to stop improperly using content from competing shopping and travel sites in its own services.
The agency said it did not find grounds to mount a legal challenge over allegations that Google biases its search results toward its own products.
It wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft found itself the subject of antitrust allegations, and complaints from its rivals that the government didn’t go far enough to stop it from leveraging the dominant Windows operating system. But now the company is on the other side of the fence, as a competitor to Google’s dominant search engine.
“We find it troubling that the agency did not adhere to its own standard procedures that call for the agency to obtain industry input on proposed relief and secure it through an enforceable consent decree,” writes Dave Heiner, Microsoft deputy general counsel, in a blog post this evening. “The FTC’s overall resolution of this matter is weak and—frankly—unusual. We are concerned that the FTC may not have obtained adequate relief even on the few subjects that Google has agreed to address.”
On the subject of standard-essential patents, Heiner notes that a similar commitment by Microsoft is simple and straightforward, spanning two sentences, whereas Google’s agreement is 13 pages, full of exceptions that would allow Google to file lawsuits over patents deemed essential to industry standards.
Heiner also points to Google’s own blog post as evidence that the search giant considers the outcome a victory. Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, wrote in that post, “The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.”
Writes Heiner, “In other words, there appears to be no reason, despite the FTC’s optimistic statements this morning, to believe that Google recognizes its responsibilities as an industry leader. That is certainly consistent with the lack of change we continue to witness as we and so many others experience ongoing harm to competition in the marketplace.”
He concludes by noting that other antitrust agencies in the U.S. and oversees are still investigating Google. He writes, “We remain hopeful that these agencies will stick to their established procedures, ensure transparency, and obtain the additional relief needed to address the serious competition law concerns that remain.”