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Google confirms FTC probe over Apple ties

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Google has confirmed reports that the US Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether overlapping board seats between Google and Apple are somehow stifling market competition.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said today that he has no intention of resigning from Apple's board in light of scrutiny from the FTC.

Speaking with reporters prior to the company's annual stock holders meeting, Google's general counsel said a discussion with the FTC was pending. Schmidt and ex-Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson are directors of both Google and Apple.

Both Google and Apple have their hands in the mobile market - Google with its Android mobile operating system and various mobile services, Apple with the ubiquitous iPhone. Both offer desktop web browsers - Google with Chrome, Apple with Safari. And the two companies offer various internet services that arguably go head-to-head. But Schmidt said "I don't think Google sees Apple as a primary competitor."

General counsel Kent Walker argued that US anti-trust law provides a safe harbor for companies that don't have overlapping revenue in different areas, accoring to the WSJ.

Google is also facing a Department of Justice investigation over its $125m settlement with the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, who sued over the company's library-scanning Book Search project. Some - including The Reg - have argued that the settlement gives Google a kind of legal monopoly in the digital book market, instantly giving it copyright to millions of works at a pre-negotiated price.

But today, Google senior vice president and cheif legal officer David Drummond said that "anyone who wanted to go scan" books could "come up with a similar outcome."

This, however, ignores that fact that Google has such an enormous head-start - it has scanned 7 million books to date - and that achieving a "similar outcome" requires the sort of Googlesque cash stores that few companies have. Plus, Mountain View has a major leg up on the scanning itself. ®

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