DOJ clears Apple-Microsoft-RIM deal to buy Nortel patents

Along with green-lighting Google's buy of Motorola, the Justice Department today OKs an Apple-Microsoft-RIM partnership deal to buy Nortel patents, and Apple's plan to acquire Novell patents.

Elinor Mills
Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
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The purchase of a number of Nortel Networks patents by a partnership that includes Apple, Microsoft, and Research In Motion has passed antitrust scrutiny, the U.S. Department of Justice said today.

The DOJ's antitrust division came to the same conclusion on Apple's planned acquisition of certain Novell patents, and of Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings, according to this statement:

After a thorough review of the proposed transactions, the Antitrust Division has determined that each acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition and has closed these three investigations. In all of the transactions, the division conducted an in-depth analysis into the potential ability and incentives of the acquiring firms to use the patents they proposed acquiring to foreclose competitors. In particular, the division focused on standard essential patents (SEPs) that Motorola Mobility and Nortel had committed to license to industry participants through their participation in standard-setting organizations (SSOs). The division's investigations focused on whether the acquiring firms could use these patents to raise rivals' costs or foreclose competition. The division concluded that the specific transactions at issue are not likely to significantly change existing market dynamics.

The agency said its concerns about the potential anticompetitive use of the standard essential patents was "lessened by the clear commitments by Apple and Microsoft to license SEPs on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms," the statement said.

The partnership group, which the DOJ called the Rockstar Bidco consortium, purchased Nortel's remaining patent portfolio--about 6,000 patents and patent applications--in a bankruptcy auction last year for $4.5 billion. The group also includes EMC, Ericsson, and Sony.

Separately, Apple has proposed acquiring patents held by CPTN Holdings that were formerly owned by Novell. CPTN acquired the patents in April of last year on behalf of Apple, Oracle. and EMC. "As a member of the Open Invention Network (OIN), Novell committed to cross-license its patents on a royalty-free basis for use in the open source 'Linux system,'" the DOJ statement said.