On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and the European Union (EU) cleared key wireless patent deals that involve Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Research-In-Motion (RIM), while warning the parties that the government will not hesitate to act against abusive technology patent lawsuits that aim to thwart competition. Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MM) was approved by the DOJ and the EU, which both concluded that the $12.5 billion acquisition posted no competitive concerns. At the same time, the DOJ consented to the $4.5 billion sale of wireless technology patents, held by bankrupt Canadian telecom gear maker Nortel Networks, Inc., to a consortium of tech firms that include Apple, Microsoft, and RIM. The DOJ also cleared Apple’s acquisition of various technology patents held by Novell, Inc. Encompassing more than 17,000 patents that cover location service, antenna design, touch screen, and other advanced smart phone technologies, the Google-MM deal ranks as the largest wireless patent transaction in a decade. In addition to enabling Google to produce and market its own Android-based smart phones, the MM deal will also provide Google with access to MM set-top box patents needed for the development of home entertainment devices. Although the MM acquisition would put Google in direct competition with other manufacturers that produce wireless handsets based on Google’s open-source Android operating system, Google has assured regulators that the Android platform will remain open and that it will not favor MM in granting access to its Android patent portfolio. Like the deal involving Nortel and the Apple consortium, Google’s purchase of MM’s patent trove is said to constitute a defensive move against the rising spate of patent lawsuits that are impacting device manufacturers throughout the wireless industry. While acknowledging that the MM-Nortel deals “are not likely to significantly change existing market dynamics,” the DOJ stressed that it would monitor usage and licensing of essential patents in the wireless device industry and “will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action” to stop abusive lawsuits and other anticompetitive practices.
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Wireless patent deals cleared by Justice Department, EU
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
- Patrick S. Campbell
- European Union, USA
- February 17 2012
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Senior Patent Counsel
Royal DSM NV