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Microsoft criticizes FTC settlement with Google, calls outcome 'a missed opportunity'

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Microsoft Logo 2 (Verge Stock)
Microsoft Logo 2 (Verge Stock)

Dissenting FTC commissioners aren't the only ones that disagree with the settlement deal the Federal Trade Commission brokered with Google: now Microsoft has chimed in, expressing concerns with the "weak" and "unusual" result. In a blog post, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner writes that the FTC didn't acquire any type of binding agreement that would keep Google from resuming the accused behavior if it wanted to. It's the same criticism levied by the FTC's own J. Thomas Rosch. Namely, that Google promised to change some of its behavior without the FTC getting any kind of binding document that would let it take the company to task if it changed its mind.

Heiner takes particular aim at Google's promise to not seek sales bans to enforce standards-essential patents. The two companies have been locked in several patent battles, and Microsoft points out that it had previously taken a two-sentence pledge itself to not seek injunctions in such a manner. In contrast, Heiner writes, FTC has provided Google with a multi-page decree that includes numerous exceptions — including one that would allow the company to use the threat of an injunction while negotiating patent licenses. He also accuses the FTC of failing to gather significant industry feedback when it came to the changes Google is making to AdWords, allowing the search giant to move forward with a change that "falls short of the mark in various ways."

The battle continues in the EU

Of course, Heiner also takes the time to reiterate Microsoft's claim that Google is intentionally blocking its ability to provide a fully-functioning YouTube app for Windows Phone devices — a matter Microsoft says the FTC has chosen to ignore. While it's difficult to know how much impact Microsoft's reaction will have domestically, it's certain to keep the spotlight on Google in one place in particular: the European Union, where the company has yet to reach a final settlement with regulators. "In Europe Vice President Almunia has made clear that he will close his investigation of Google only with a formal, binding order," Heiner 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."