The first big hurdle has been taken by Google and Motorola Mobility. The European Union has given the green light for Google to proceed with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. The EU will, however, monitor the deal and its outcome for potential patent abuse. Update: And there we go, the US DoJ has approved the deal as well. Update II: The just-linked DoJ report also approves the Nortel patent sale to Apple, Microsoft, and RIM. I’m hoping for lots of fireworks here so the patent system blows up in Google’s, Microsoft’s and Apple’s faces, so we can point and laugh about all the money they wasted.
The deal has been in the making for a while now, and the EU is the fist large regulatory body to give the official green light. “We have approved the acquisition […] because upon careful examination, this transaction does not itself raise competition issues,” EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
However, the potential for patent abuse is here, especially regarding the FRAND (standards essential) patents. There’s the danger that Google will use FRAND patents in its defence against Apple’s and Microsoft’s aggressive patent trolling. While not every use of FRAND patents in lawsuits is anti-competitive (if valid FRAND licensing offers are denied, FRAND patent holders have the right to sue), this concern is still very much valid. The EU agrees.
“This merger decision should not and will not mean that we are not concerned by the possibility that, once Google is the owner of this portfolio, Google can abuse these patents, linking some patents with its Android devices. This is our worry,” Almunia said, “We might be obliged to open some cases in the future. This is not enough to block the merger but we will be vigilant.”
While I personally believe Alumnia should be more concerned about software patent abuse (Apple) and mafia protection money schemes (Microsoft) and how these practices negatively affect the market and consumers, it’s still good know the EU is at least on top of this potential future abuse.
The acquisition is not complete yet – China, the US, and several others have to approve the deal too.
Why should regulatory bodies need to approve the merger, anyway? It should be no business of governments whether companies merge, collapse, or split, just in what they do with their market position. If Google goes completely mad with power after acquiring Motorola, then the governments of the countries they operate in should sanction them, but I don’t see the point in potentially blocking the acquisition.