Google’s Worldwide Anti-trust Woes- Coming to an End?

googleFor the past two years the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the possibly anti-competitive actions of mega-company Google. Now, the investigation may be coming to a close as the FTC issued its final ultimatum: Google must produce a detailed proposal listing voluntary concessions the company will make to resolve issues over its search engine practices.

Several competitors, the most infamous of which is Microsoft but also including Yelp and TripAdvisor, have alleged that Google searches prioritize searches not necessarily by relevance but to promote their own products. Furthermore, competitors are concerned over potential copyright infringements of Google’s “snippets” which show with preliminary results. Microsoft has launched the “Scroogled” campaign to educate online users on the anti-trust battle and to ultimately persuade the audience to use Bing’s search engine honesty.

From Google’s point of view, spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker “the focus of Google is on Google and the positive impact our industry has on society, not competition”. They state that the order of search results is showcasing the best product available, which may put their own products over Bing or other rivals. They also state that regardless of the numberless ranking on the page, every site is equally one click away. Political proponents of Google, including several Democratic Senators have been outspoken on the issues, reminding the FTC that their job is not to protect competition but rather to aid consumers.

As Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon stated, it would be “troubling if the FTC sought to expand the use of its authority to target a company for simply being popular rather than engaging in unfair or deceptive practices that harm consumers.”

A similar anti-trust case is ongoing in Europe, which has offered Google comparable terms to end the need for a law suit. If Google’s proposal does not fit federal and EU expectations, the company could be charged up to 10% of the company’s value, or about $4 billion. Only time will tell the outcome of this case for Google, its competitors, and consumers worldwide.

Posted by: Sophia Higgins

Sources: Reuters, Time Business

Photo credit: Google @ photostream courtesy of Flickr user halilgokdal

United States Rejects UN Telecom Treaty in Dubai

Telecom TreatyThe United States on Thursday said that it would not sign the new ITU treaty aimed at Internet governance. The U.S. delegation at the conference in Dubai, led by Ambassador Terry Kramer, commented that there were “too many issues here that were problematic for us.”

The treaty is intended to govern how telephone calls and communications traffic is exchanged internationally. Though the treaty is not legally binding, the provisions surrounding Internet governance and content matters were opposed by the United States and several other governments such as the UK, Canada, and Sweden. The U.S. delegation further noted that the treaty should not be applied to Internet providers as well as private and government networks, but rather to traditional telecom operators. Though toothless, the treaty could set a future precedence on Internet governance that would be against U.S. interests, according to Mr. Kramer.

Technology trade groups, spearheaded by Google, warned early on about the danger of adopting the ITU treaty and its potential for leading to future censorship of the Internet. Other criticism of the treaty included the risk of creating an obstacle for innovation and increasing government regulations of the Internet.

Political leaders from both parties passed resolutions in the House and the Senate directing the U.S. government to oppose international efforts to increase ITU’s control over the Internet.  Other Western countries joined the U.S. in questioning why governments should meddle with the free flow of information on the Internet. Some of the most vocal nations in favor of the new treaty were China, Russia, Iran and the Gulf Arab states. In total, 89 countries signed the treaty; 55 did not. The conference showed the deep ideological rift among the 193 member nations of the UN.

The treaty will take effect in January 2015. It remains to be seen where the non-signatory countries will end up, many of which may yet sign the treaty. What is certain at this point, however, is that the future of the Internet, and how to govern it, will remain a hot debate topic in the coming months and years.

Posted by: Samuel Benka

 Sources: The Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Hill

Photo Credit:  ITU WCIT 2012 Courtesy of Flickr user veni markovski

What the Apple-Samsung Case May Mean for Innovation & Competitiveness

In a case that has garnered much attention by the media, Apple claimed that Samsung had infringed on several patents on the iPhone and iPad.The San Jose jury unanimously agreed with Apple in its verdict. However, a similar case in South Korea found that Samsung infringed only one Apple patent while Apple infringed two Samsung patents.

More important than the $1 billion that Samsung must pay to Apple for its infringements (which is a mere 1.5 percent of Samsung’s annual revenue) is the message Apple conveyed to companies with regard to basic design elements in electronic devices.    The case of Apple versus Samsung is just the first of several claims by Apple of patent infringements by other companies.  Most threatening is the message sent to device makers who use Google’s Android operating system.  Apple has surprisingly chosen not to sue Google likely because it is much easier to make a case for monetary damage against companies like Samsung that sell hardware to consumers versus a company like Google, which doesn’t charge device makers for its software.

The impact this case will have on future competition is yet to be seen, as some lawyers argue that Apple isn’t the only company that can come up with innovative designs-and its court victory could encourage more innovation by competitors.  However, others argue that this verdict could stifle innovation as it may force device makers to slow or abandon product development in fear of breaching Apple’s intellectual property resulting in less smartphones and tablets on the market and higher production costs and prices for consumers.

Samsung stated, “It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies.”

Perhaps this case, which is one of the largest patent damages verdict on record, will encourage others to, “think outside the box” (no pun intended) and develop more unique designs in the future.

 

Posted by: Elizabeth White

Sources: The NY Times, The Wall Street Journal & CIO Journal

Photo Credit: apple-samsung Courtesy of Flickr user diTii

The Coolest Thing You’ve Heard in a While…

In 2011, Google introduced its first ever science fair that challenged students ages 13-18 to answer the big questions they had about science, life, and how the world works.  Of course, many people have questions, but Google sought out the most curious minds from across the globe that went a step further and actually got answers.  After a long and grueling selection process, three winners were chosen in each of three age groups (13-14, 15-16, 17-18).  Notably and highly encouraging, all three were young women – a gender known for its general underrepresentation in the sciences.

In the 13-14 age group, Lauren Hodge studied the effects of marinades on potentially harmful carcinogens in grilled chicken.  As her prize, she received a $25,000 scholarship and an internship at LEGO.  In the 15-16 age group, Naomi Shah won for her study that showed how changes to indoor environments could improve the lives of asthma patients.  For her efforts, she was also awarded a $25,000 scholarship and a Google internship.  Finally, in the 17-18 age group, Shree Bose wowed the judges with her discovery of a way to improve cancer treatment for patients that have built up resistance to specific chemotherapy drugs.  She was awarded a $50,000 scholarship and an internship with CERN, the world-renowned Geneva-based laboratory that is the leader in particle physics and nuclear research.  The judges were impressed by the girls’  “intellectual curiosity, their tenaciousness and their ambition to use science to find solutions to big problems.” They recently met with President Obama  and also spoke at the TED Women conference in Los Angeles.

In other youth science news – that will also make readers feel quite inadequate – 17-year-old Taylor Wilson recently gave his own brief TED Talk about his short career as a…nuclear physicist? Yes, at the ripe age of 14 he built a nuclear fusion reactor in his garage, a technology he believes will be the future of energy. He has also developed special safety detectors for a few hundred dollars – which normally cost the Department of Homeland Security a few hundred thousand dollars.  Taylor has even found ways to develop medical isotopes at small scale.  He says, “I started out with a dream to make a star in a jar, and I ended up…making things that I think can change the world.”

Much of the debate surrounding science and technology education in the United States is resoundingly negative. Our test scores lag, we produce fewer bachelors and advanced degrees in the sciences, fewer children have a passion for science.  All this, many predict, will lead to America’s innovative decline; we will no longer be able to compete in the area that made our economy so strong.  But seeing competitions like those of Google or First Robotics, the passion shown by those three young women, and the curiosity of Taylor should give pause to those naysayers.  These young people are also evidence of how American institutions like equal opportunity and individual freedom foster what remains the best environment for innovation and creativity the world has ever seen.  They will be the ones to invent the future and are a source of hope and inspiration for America’s competitive future.  Like TED says, these are certainly ideas worth spreading.

Posted by Brian Gowen

Sources: Google, TED, The New York Times, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program

Photo credit Fayette County Science Fair courtesy of flickr user DrBacchus

Small Business and Innovation

Large corporations, Apple and Google are the first to come to mind, often get the lion’s share of attention for innovation.  While that may be deservedly so, it doesn’t mean that small businesses aren’t doing their own fair share of innovating.

Chris Thoen the Managing Director of Proctor and Gamble’s office of Global Open Innovation, described ways in which it can be advantageous for a large corporation to work with a smaller counterpart in pursuing innovative practices or strategies.  Smaller businesses can be more flexible and are less bound to established practices which can lead to more risk-taking.  Some even argue that small businesses are innovating, but are merely not fully aware of their innovations.

The federal government also plays a role in small business innovation through the Small Business Innovation Research program, which administers grants to small businesses through eleven different federal departments.  Whether public or private sector, the ability to innovate successfully will be an essential task for small business throughout the 21st century.

Posted by: Rachel Barker

Sources: Blogging Innovation, Forbes, Innosight

Photo Credit: Cardiff ecotaxi courtesy of flickr user maisora