A Federal Trade Commission staff report has recommended that the government sue Google for violating U.S. antitrust law because it asked courts to stop sales of some products which infringe on its essential patents, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
The five-member commission is inclined to vote in favor of suing Google, the Internet search engine giant, Bloomberg said, quoting unidentified sources.
Apple, Google and Microsoft have sued each other many times in various countries, each alleging that their respective patents are being infringed upon by rivals in the highly competitive smartphone space.
In many cases, the companies ask for their rivals' products to be banned from stores because of infringement.
In a few cases, the patents involved are considered "standard essential patents," which holders pledged to license on fair and reasonable terms. Many antitrust enforcers believe it is inappropriate for companies to ask for sales bans based on infringement of essential patents.
Google has sued both Apple and Microsoft in the United States, saying the companies infringed on standard essential patents, according to Florian Mueller, an expert on the smartphone patent wars.
The FTC is looking into a long list of complaints brought by rivals of the search giant, which is also accused of using its dominance to squash rivals in vertical search areas like shopping and travel.
Google declined to discuss the report, saying "we take our commitments to license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms very seriously."
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in mid-September that he expected a decision in the case by the end of the year. A decision could be a lawsuit or, more likely, a settlement.
Google has had a series of settlements with U.S. law enforcement agencies in recent years.
For example, it settled with the FTC following privacy gaffes during the botched rollout of its social network Buzz, and later paid $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed privacy settings of customers using Apple's Safari browser.
Google also paid a $500 million settlement in 2011 to the Justice Department for knowingly accepting illegal advertisements from Canadian pharmacies selling in the United States.
(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Claudia Parsons)