DOJ approves Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility

The agency also approves patent purchase deals by Apple, Microsoft and RIM

The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Google's acquisition of mobile-phone and tablet maker Motorola Mobility for about US$12.5 billion, following the European Commission's approval earlier in the day.

Google is still waiting for approvals from China, Israel and Taiwan before the deal is final. Canada's investigation is also ongoing. The search giant still says it hopes the acquisition will close in "early 2012."

The DOJ on Monday also approved bids by Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion (RIM) to purchase some Nortel Networks patents, as well as Apple's purchase of some Novell patents.

The DOJ's Antitrust Division has "determined that each acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition," the agency said in a press release. The DOJ has closed its investigations into the three deals.

Google's acquisition of Motorola is unlikely to cause major changes to the mobile industry, the DOJ said.

"The evidence shows that Motorola Mobility has had a long and aggressive history of seeking to capitalize on its intellectual property and has been engaged in extended disputes with Apple, Microsoft and others," the DOJ said. "As Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility is unlikely to materially alter that policy, the division concluded that transferring ownership of the patents would not substantially alter current market dynamics."

Apple's acquisition of Novell patents that are important to the open-source community is unlikely to change the market because Novell had committed to providing the patents with royalty-free licenses for use in Linux, the DOJ said.

The acquisition of mobile patents by Microsoft and RIM should not hurt competition because the two companies' "low market shares in mobile platforms would likely make a strategy to harm rivals ... unprofitable," the DOJ said.

Separately, the European Commission on Monday also approved the Google/Motorola deal.

Google announced its agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility, including 17,000 patents and 6,800 applications, in August. Many analysts saw the deal as an effort by Google to protect its Android operating system from patent claims by competitors.

Rockstar Bidco, a partnership including RIM, Microsoft and Apple, was formed to acquire Nortel patents in a June bankruptcy auction. The group paid $4.5 billion.

Apple proposed to buy 882 Novell patents from CPTN Holdings, a partnership including Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and EMC, after the DOJ in April reached an agreement that kept Microsoft from acquiring the patents. Novell is the distributor of the SUSE Linux OS. CPTN purchased the patents for $450 million.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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