updated 03:50 pm EDT, Thu June 23, 2011
FTC approves Apple chance at buying Nortel patents
The FTC on Thursday gave the go-ahead to Apple participating in a Nortel patent auction. Confirming recent rumors, it determined that Apple's bids wouldn't pose a competitive threat. Concerns had existed that Apple might over-aggressively pursue lawsuits with the patents in tow, particularly against Android phone makers.
The Department of Justice hadn't yet given its own assent. Ericsson and Intel are also expected to be part of the bidding process.
The auction, due next week, will cover a range of patents that focus mostly on wireless techniques like 4G and Wi-Fi but also other networking and some voice. Google has already been cleared for its own bid because its $900 million offer is serving as a "stalking horse" bid that sets the minimum price. Its concern has been both to discourage patent trolls as well as to protect Android with the weight of patents. Google has been mostly helpless against companies like Microsoft and Oracle.
Microsoft tried and failed to reject conditions agreed to by Google and Nortel. Under the terms, any patent winner would be allowed to break existing deals. Microsoft claims to have complete, free, universal licensing for Nortel's patents but now couldn't use these to attack Android makers and other companies.
Auctioning is due to start on June 27, though results may not show for weeks.