updated 07:45 pm EDT, Tue June 14, 2011
DOJ gives OK to Google patent terms
The US Department of Justice has approved Google's controversial bid on Nortel's patents, sources mentioned Tuesday evening. Officials had told the WSJ that the Android maker's patent ownership wouldn't raise competitive issues and accepted its terms, which would let it end existing agreements if it won the $900 million bid. Microsoft had objected and wanted existing terms to carry over since it already claimed to have a complete, free license for all of Nortel's patents.
Google had made the bid as a defensive measure, both to prevent easy patent trolling and to get a warchest of patents it could use to countersue a company if it attacked Android or an Android partner. Microsoft has been using lawsuits to stifle Android and would suddenly go without Nortel's technology to use as a weapon.
Simultaneously, Apple is still in talks for its own possible bid, as is RIM, extra tips revealed. DOJ officials are known to be skittish about handing the patents to either the iPhone or BlackBerry creators, since both are known to aggressively sue competitors to guard patents.
The combined pool of 6,000 patents focus mostly on wireless, including LTE-based 4G and Wi-Fi, and could give anyone who acquires some or all of the patents a way of dictating terms in the wireless world. Nokia's 3G patents were strong enough that it collects royalties from most phone builders and steered Apple into a settlement. Apple, for example, could use 4G rights as leverage.
Nortel decided to sell the patents to help exit bankruptcy and is due to hold the auction on June 20.