updated 07:50 pm EST, Wed February 8, 2012
DOJ may OK Google-Motorola with conditions
The Department of Justice is leaning towards approving Google's takeover of Motorola, insiders leaked Wednesday. It wasn't clear what the motivating reasons were in the Wall Street Journal tip, but the approval could be publicized as soon as next week. Regulators would mostly be watching to see if Google abused the patents it would get with Motorola to attack competitors.
An actual implementation of the merger would still hinge on getting EU clearance, albeit roughly at the same time as in the US. There, Google has been promising to offer fair rates for Motorola's standards-based patents. It's unknown if this would see Motorola under Google back off from its current stance, where it has tried to get high 2.25 percent royalties from Apple, Microsoft, and others regardless of the product.
Apple and Microsoft have both vocally complained about Motorola's current attitude. The former petitioned ETSI just this week to set tougher conditions that would discourage lawsuits based on standards. Samsung is already under scrutiny for possibly abusing its own standards patents, insisting that a refusal to take any rate it sets is grounds for a lawsuit.
As a possible balance to Google's acquisition, the DOJ is now also expected to approve the joint Nortel patent purchase. The coalition of winning bidders, which included Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, and others, has been waiting since the summer. Officials were worried that the bid for thousands of patents was the prelude to a lawsuit campaign and, in leaks, purportedly wanted promises that this attack wouldn't happen. The portfolio might instead be used to discourage either original or countering lawsuits with an easy weapon.
A successful Google takeover of Motorola could destabilize Android. Despite statements from other Android partners claiming that the deal would keep Motorola distant would be good for protecting the OS from patent attacks, Google has shown mounting signs that it might unfairly favor Motorola. It may have poached an Apple hardware quality veteran, and chairman Eric Schmidt has admitted that hardware was a factor in the $12.5 billion takeover. Statements that HTC, LG, Samsung and others gave endorsing the deal on its announcement have been treated with suspicion, since it was clear that each had been given a boilerplate response pledging loyalty rather than allowed to give their own reactions.