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14 February 2012, 09:42

EU and US OK Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility

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Android icon The European Commission and the US Department of Justice have cleared Google's proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google began the acquisition process in August 2011 when it offered $12.5 billion for the former mobile devices division of Motorola, which had been spun off from Motorola in January 2011. The deal would bring together the creator of the open source Android operating system and one of the hardware vendors that has brought both Android-based smartphones and tablets to market.

The European Commission said in its statement that "after careful examination" it did not see any competition issues raised by the transaction. But it did note that it would "continue to keep a close eye on the behaviour of all market players in the sector, particularly the increasingly strategic use of patents".

Motorola Mobility holds around 17,000 patents and the commission is concerned that access to "standards essential" patents held by them and other companies in the sector on, typically FRAND (Fair Reasonable And Non Discriminatory), terms were being restricted. But it did not see Google's acquisition as changing the competitive landscape around that.

The US DOJ statement raised a similar issue noting that Google's commitments on standards essential patents (SEPs) are not as clear as other companies in the sector such as Apple and Microsoft. It also concluded that the acquisition of Motorola Mobility's patent portfolio by Google "did not substantially lessen competition, but how Google may exercise its patents in the future remains a significant concern". The DoJ said it too would continue to monitor the use of SEPs in the wireless device industry.

Google's announcement that the regulators had given the go ahead made no mention of the concerns. Google VP and Deputy General Counsel said that "the combination of Google and Motorola Mobility will help supercharge Android" and that it would enhance competition with "faster innovation, greater choice and wonderful user experiences". There are still a few jurisdictions left to clear the deal, but as it stands it is expected to now go ahead. Google has previously said it plans to continue running Motorola Mobility as a separate business unit.


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