US and European regulators gave the green light on Monday to Internet giant Google Inc’s US$12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.
In a related decision, the US Department of Justice’s antitrust division also approved the purchase by Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) of patents from Nortel Networks Corp and the acquisition by Apple of Novell patents.
The department said it examined the three deals simultaneously to determine “whether the acquiring firms could use these patents to raise rivals’ costs or foreclose competition.”
“After a thorough review of the proposed transactions, the antitrust division has determined that each acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition and has closed these three investigations,” it said.
“The division concluded that the specific transactions at issue are not likely to significantly change existing market dynamics,” it added.
Google acquired 17,000 patents with the purchase of Motorola Mobility and has been strengthening its patent portfolio as the fight for dominance in the booming smartphone and tablet computer market increasingly involves lawsuits claiming infringement of patented technology.
Apple and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co, whose devices are powered by Google’s Android software, are currently involved in lengthy and costly -patent fights being waged in several continents.
In announcing the Motorola Mobility acquisition in August last year, Google chief executive Larry Page said it would “enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”
The department said it had focused its investigation on the licensing of standard essential patents (SEP).
“The division’s concerns about the potential anti-competitive use of SEPs was lessened by the clear commitments by Apple and Microsoft to license SEPs on fair, reasonable and non--discriminatory terms, as well as their commitments not to seek injunctions in disputes involving SEPs,” it said.
“Google’s commitments were more ambiguous and do not provide the same direct confirmation of its SEP licensing policies,” the department added.
The antitrust division said it would monitor the use of SEPs in the smartphone and tablet markets and “will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to stop any anti-competitive use of SEP rights.”
The department’s green light for the Google-Motorola Mobility deal came just hours after EU regulators announced their approval.
“We have approved the acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google because, upon careful examination, this transaction does not itself raise competition issues,” said Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s antitrust commissioner.
The EU investigation centered on whether Google might make it harder for handset manufacturers such as Taiwan’s HTC Corp (宏達電) of Samsung to use Android once it owns Motorola Mobility, which also makes smartphones and tablet computers.
“It is unlikely that Google would restrict the use of Android solely to Motorola, a minor player in the European Economic Area,” the European Commission said.
The commission said Google “already had many ways in which to incentivize customers to take up its services and that the acquisition of Motorola would not materially change this.”