Nortel Networks crashed and burned in spectacular fashion a few years ago, and ever since the company's remains have been hanging around and sniffed out by other major technology companies. Apple, Microsoft and RIM in particular have been on the hunt for the valuable Nortel
patents that remain, and the United States Department of Justice's Antitrust Division just okay'd the $4.5 billion bid on those very patents from a cadre of tech companies. Here's the DOJ's quote:
"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.
"During the course of the division's investigation, several of the principal competitors, including Google, Apple and Microsoft, made commitments concerning their SEP licensing policies. The division's concerns about the potential anticompetitive use of SEPs was lessened by the clear commitments by Apple and Microsoft to license SEPs on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, as well as their commitments not to seek injunctions in disputes involving SEPs. Google's commitments were more ambiguous and do not provide the same direct confirmation of its SEP licensing policies.
"In light of the importance of this industry to consumers and the complex issues raised by the intersection of the intellectual property rights and antitrust law at issue here, as well as uncertainty as to the exercise of the acquired rights, the division continues to monitor the use of SEPs in the wireless device industry, particularly in the smartphone and computer tablet markets. The division will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to stop any anticompetitive use of SEP rights."
The decision comes hot on the heels of the DOJ's other major decision today, which was to okay the purchase of Motorola Mobility by Google.