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January 4, 2013

Google emerges from case

SAN FRANCISCO — Google has settled a U.S. government probe into its business practices without making any major concessions on how the company runs its Internet search engine.

Thursday’s agreement with the Federal Trade Commission covers only some of the issues raised in a wide-ranging antitrust investigation that could have culminated in a regulatory crackdown that re-shapes Internet search, advertising and mobile computing.

But the FTC didn’t find any reason to impose radical changes, to the relief of Google and technology trade groups worried about regulation discouraging future innovation. The resolution disappointed consumer rights groups and Google rivals such as Microsoft Corp., which had lodged complaints with regulators in hopes of legal action that would split up or at least hobble the Internet’s most powerful company.

After a 19-month investigation, Google Inc. placated the FTC by agreeing to a consent decree that will require the company to charge “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” prices to license hundreds of patents deemed essential to the operations of mobile phones, tablet computers, laptops and video game players.

The requirement is meant to ensure that Google doesn’t use patents acquired in last year’s $12.4 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility to thwart competition from mobile devices running on software other than Google’s Android system. The products vying against Android include iPhone and iPad, BlackBerry and Windows software.

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