Google hasn't violated any antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday, but it has agreed to make some changes in how it treats its rivals as part of a settlement to end the 19-month investigation into its business practices.
The FTC's investigation focused on allegations that Google has been abusing its dominance in Internet search. Google's rivals say the company has been highlighting its own services on its influential results page while burying the links to competing sites.
Google Inc. has fiercely defended its right to recommend the websites that it believes are the most relevant.
The FTC said it voted unanimously to close the investigation on whether Google's algorithm unfairly favored itself because there was no evidence that Google violated antitrust laws.
"Although some evidence suggested that Google was trying to eliminate competition, Google's primary reason for changing the look and feel of its search results to highlight its own products was to improve the user experience," FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said to reporters Thursday.
Google was also investigated for abusing patent protection against competitors like Apple. As part of the settlement, Google is agreeing to license patents deemed to be "essential" for rival mobile devices such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad, regulators said.
Regulators say Google is also promising that upon request, it will exclude snippets copied from other websites in its summaries of key information, even though the company had insisted the practice is legal under the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law.