The U.S. Department of Justice today officially blessed the marriage between Google and Motorola after concluding that the merger would not adversely impact competition in the wireless market.
In the analysis of its decision, the DOJ concluded that Google’s acquisition of Motorola was unlikely to give the company a dominant advantage over its rivals in terms of holding key smartphone patents. Specifically, the DOJ wrote that “Motorola Mobility has had a long and aggressive history of seeking to capitalize on its intellectual property and has been engaged in extended disputes with Apple, Microsoft and others… Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is unlikely to change that policy.”
In addition to its approval of the Google-Motorola merger, the DOJ today also gave Microsoft, Apple and Research in Motion the go-ahead to buy up patents formerly held by Nortel. Those three companies last year formed an industry consortium that bid a total of $4.5 billion for the Nortel patents, thus keeping them out of Google’s hands. Google had bid a total of $900 million for the rights to the Nortel patents. In all, the Nortel portfolio contains more than 6,000 patents that cover technologies such as 4G wireless, data networking and voice.
Apple, Microsoft and other big tech companies have been suing manufacturers that create and sell devices based on Google's Android operating system for alleged patent infringement since 2010. Apple got the ball rolling by filing a lawsuit against HTC for allegedly infringing on 20 Apple patents in March 2010 and Microsoft followed shortly after by announcing it had reached a licensing agreement with HTC where the company would pay Microsoft royalties in exchange for the right to sell Android-based devices.
To combat these patent suits against Android vendors, Google has attempted to boost its own patent portfolio through both its failed bid to acquire valuable tech patents formerly held by Nortel and its announcement that it intends to pay $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of 24,500 patents.