Google Inc. (GOOG), under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for its dominance of Internet searches, said it hired Suzanne Michel, one of the commission’s top intellectual property officials.
Michel, 49, is leaving her post as deputy director of policy planning at the FTC, where she worked for more than 11 years on patent antitrust issues and patent policy. She will join the company’s legal team, Aaron Zamost, a Google spokesman, said, declining to elaborate on what her responsibilities will be.
Michel was the chief writer of a patent report the FTC issued in March, which analyzed the evolution of the patent system in the U.S. and made recommendations on how to improve patent law to promote innovation. The report also made suggestions to the courts on how to make patent remedies more effective.
Cecelia Prewett, an FTC spokeswoman, declined to comment on Michel’s move.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, faces a growing threat from intellectual-property lawsuits and is seeking to buy patents that potentially could be used in counterattacks to create what its General Counsel Kent Walker has called a “disincentive” to sue the company.
Oracle Corp. (ORCL) sued Google over claims its Android mobile operating system copied Oracle’s Java programming language. Google is also under attack from rivals including Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) that allege infringement by handset makers that use Android.
Last month, Google bought patents from International Business Machines Corp. (IBM)
Apple, Microsoft and its partners, which include Research in Motion Ltd., Sony Corp., Ericsson AB and EMC Corp., beat out Google last month in the biggest patent auction in history, a $4.5 billion purchase from bankrupt Nortel Networks Corp.
The U.S. Justice Department is examining the sale to see if it hurts competition in the smartphone industry, a person familiar with the matter said. If the Justice department doesn’t challenge the deal, the winners of Ontario-based Nortel’s patents will control more than 6,000 patents and applications that cover wireless technologies.
Google is also calling on Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to rein in lawsuits, and asking the Patent and Trademark Office to take a closer look at patents being used in litigation.