Federal Trade Commission staff are recommending the agency file a lawsuit against Google because of its efforts to block U.S. imports of iPhones and Windows Phones, according to Bloomberg.
Google subsidiary Motorola has been involved in two lawsuits against Apple at the ITC — International Trade Commission — over the past year, seeking import bans on competitors’ phones.
In the first, the ITC cleared Apple of infringement on three claims but found that one of Motorola’s patents related to a “sensor-controlled user interface” was possibly infringing. The second case alleged infringement of seven patents, including location reminders, email notifications, phone/video players, and Siri voice recognition.
Motorola had been asking for royalties of 2.25 percent on retail pricing, which would put almost $15 in Google’s pocket every time Apple sells an entry-level $649 iPhone 5.
Standard practice in the wireless industry, however, is to license essential patents at much lower cost, often referred to as FRAND: fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. The goal is that no one player can dominate the industry with exorbitant demands over a single patent.
Google and Motorola had dropped that patent lawsuit just last month, and at the time, it wasn’t clear why Google dropped the suit.
Seen in the light of today’s decision, it now seems possible that Google caught a hint of the FTC staff’s concerns and decided to get out of Dodge before getting into further trouble.
The threatened lawsuit, however, is just a recommendation from FTC staff and would need to be acted upon by federally-appointed FTC commissioners. That seems an unlikely option given that Google has withdrawn the complaint.
But it does give Apple plenty of ammo in its crusade to pay as little as possible to the creators of its greatest rival, the Android mobile operating system.