Google-Motorola union reportedly poised to receive DOJ approval

The Department of Justice is poised to approve Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) as soon as next week, according to multiple reports, a deal that will see the Android hardware maker become a subsidiary of Google.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, antitrust authorities in both the U.S. and Europe are still concerned about Google's commitment to license Motorola's standards-essential wireless patents to competitors on fair and reasonable terms, and will continue to monitor Google's use of the patents. Google would get a trove of more than 17,000 patents in the wireless deal.

The news of DOJ's move toward approving the deal, which was also reported by Bloomberg, comes days ahead of a Feb. 13 deadline for the European Commission to decide whether to approve the acquisition, which was announced last summer. It also comes as Google is squaring off with both Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) over the fair licensing of industry-standard patents. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Separately, both the Journal and Bloomberg reported that the Justice Department is also likely to approve the $4.5 billion sale of Nortel Networks' patent portfolio to a consortium of companies. The antitrust authorities were investigating whether the companies in the consortium planned to file patent infringement suits against Android licensees. Google made the opening $900 million "stalking horse" bid for the patents prior to agreeing to acquire Motorola, but was outbid by the consortium, known as Rockstar Bidco. The consortium is comprised of Apple, EMC Corp., Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Microsoft, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Sony.

As Google and Motorola appear headed toward a union, concern is mounting within the industry over whether Google will license Motorola's patents to competitors under FRAND terms--fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory. In November Apple sent a previously undisclosed letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and argued that the mobile industry lacks consistent standards for licensing essential wireless patents. Microsoft posted a statement Wednesday saying it would makes its patents available under FRAND terms and would not "seek an injunction or exclusion order against any firm on the basis of those essential patents. This also means that Microsoft will make those essential patents available for license to other firms without requiring that those firms license their patents back to Microsoft, except for any patents they have that are essential to the same industry standard."

Google sought to assure dozens of standards bodies on Wednesday that it would license Motorola's patents on FRAND terms. However, Google said it is not ruling out the possibility of seeking injunctions against companies that do not license its patents. "Google will not apply for injunctive relief against a wiling licensee," Google wrote, but said a "willing licensee" would need to provide sales estimates and pay royalties into an escrow account. The company also said it "reserves its right to seek any and all appropriate judicial remedies against counterparties" that refuse to license its FRAND patents.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Microsoft post

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