Google to commit to offer some Motorola patents on FRAND terms

The patents to be offered on FRAND terms will be those that are standards essential

Google is planning to send a letter to standards setting organizations, stating that Motorola Mobility's standards-essential patents will continue to be available on FRAND terms after its acquisition of the company, a person close to the situation said late Tuesday.

The Internet giant said in August that it planned to acquire mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility for about US$12.5 billion, in part to acquire patents to help it fight patent infringement lawsuits against the Android operating system.

The acquisition is awaiting regulatory clearances including from the European Commission which is expected to give its ruling next week on whether it is continuing its investigation or clearing the deal. The deadline for submitting remedies to the EC was over on Monday.

Google's decision to send the letter may be linked to its bid for the EC clearance, according to some news reports.

The letter will be sent in "a day or so" to over 12 leading standards setting bodies, the person said, while declining to be named.

FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licenses allow companies to develop open standards for systems such as 3G mobile networks by sharing information and technology. Standards bodies typically require that companies participating in the development of a standard agree to license any relevant patents they hold on FRAND terms if their technology is essential to the standard.

"Since we announced our agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility last August, we've heard questions about whether Motorola Mobility's standard-essential patents will continue to be licensed on FRAND terms once we've closed this transaction," a Google spokeswoman said. "The answer is simple: they will," she added.

A reaffirmed FRAND licensing commitment in itself will be a mere tautology that doesn't change anything, said patent expert Florian Mueller in a blog post. "There's no question that anyone acquiring Motorola Mobility will have to honor existing obligations," he added. Mueller said Google will have to address issues such as under what circumstances it will seek injunctive relief in courts based on standards-related patents, and whether its royalty rates will be any higher than those of Motorola.

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