The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, just hours after the deal was approved by the European Commission.
The key phrasing from the DoJ: “The division concluded that the specific transactions at issue are not likely to significantly change existing market dynamics."
When Google first announced the deal, they stated that it was done to "supercharge" Android with Motorola Mobility's extensive patent portfolio. And in addition to basic market competition, that's exactly what the DoJ was looking at as part of three investigations. The feds don't appear to be overly impressed with Google's intentions, saying that "Google’s commitments were more ambiguous and do not provide the same direct confirmation of its SEP licensing policies." And as such, it's going to keep an eye on things and that "The division will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to stop any anticompetitive use of [standard essential patents] rights."
Where it really gets good, however, is when the DoJ basically says that in the course of its investigation, it determined that Microsoft and RIM have too low a market share to use as offensive weapons the patents they have a stake in as part of the Rockstar Bidco purchase (and whose purchase was also approved in the same ruling today). It also alludes that it considers those patents to be essential, and that if Google were to seek a licensing agreement with them, the Rockstar Bidco group would have offer fair terms.
In other words, if everybody doesn't play nice -- or at least fairly -- Uncle Sam's gonna step in and lay the smack down.
The Justice Department also notes that Microsoft already has licensing agreements with a buttload of Android manufacturers anyway, so it's kind of moot for the folks in Redmond. But essentially calling Microsoft and RIM "small" in the process is amusing.
With respect to RIM’s and Microsoft’s acquisition of Nortel patents, their low market shares in mobile platforms would likely make a strategy to harm rivals either through injunctions or supracompetitive royalties based on the acquired Nortel SEPs unprofitable. Because of their low market shares, they are unlikely to attract a sufficient number of new customers to their mobile platforms to compensate for the lost patent royalty revenues. Moreover, Microsoft has cross-license agreements in place with the majority of its Android-based OEM competitors, making such a strategy even less plausible for it.
Now we all wait to see what China has to say, but this deal likely is all but complete.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
Android Central's Sean Brunett contributed to this report.