Google Inc. kicked off the New Year with a major legal victory.

Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it has ended its two-year antitrust investigation into Google, finding that the Internet company didn’t manipulate its web search results to favor its own products and services and thus hurt its rivals.

“The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition,” David Drummond, Google’s chief lawyer, wrote in a blog post. “We’re pleased that the FTC and the other authorities that have looked at Google’s business practices … have concluded that we should be free to combine direct answers with Web results.”

The FTC brought no major charges against Google, but as part of the settlement, Google promised to make voluntary changes to its search practices. The company will give online advertisers more flexibility to manage ad campaigns on rival sites. Additionally, it agreed to grant fair and reasonable licenses to mobile-device competitors whose products use wireless technologies covered by its patents.

Not surprisingly, Google’s rivals are disappointed with the outcome of the investigation. In an email to Thomson Reuters, a Yelp spokesman wrote that “the closure of the commission’s investigation into search bias by Google without action … represents a missed opportunity to protect innovation in the Internet economy.”

Meanwhile, European antitrust officials are wrapping up their investigation of Google, and experts speculate that the company could face stricter reprimanding.

Read the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek for more about the Google-FTC settlement.

For more recent InsideCounsel stories about antitrust, read:

DOJ antitrust division collects record-breaking fines in 2012

Regulators sue NY tour buses for alleged monopoly

Retailers appeal $7.2 billion Visa/MasterCard settlement

Most-favored-nation clauses attract antitrust scrutiny