Jia Lynn Yang
February 10, 2012
With the Justice Department on the cusp of allowing two major acquisition deals among technology companies, the firms involved — including giants Google, Apple and Microsoft — are trying to reassure regulators that their battles over intellectual property won’t harm the industry.
Antitrust officials are preparing to greenlight, as early as next week, a pair of purchases that allow the country’s biggest tech firms to build up their arsenals of patents: Google is paying $12.5 billion to purchase cellphone maker Motorola Mobility, largely to acquire the company’s lucrative patents. Meanwhile, a group of Google’s rivals, including Apple and Microsoft, is set to buy the extensive patent portfolio of now-bankrupt telecommunications firm Nortel Networks.
The patents cover aspects of technology related to the lucrative market for mobile devices. The companies are stockpiling patents in an escalating, Cold War-like fight; any company that falls too far behind risks getting pummeled by rivals in the courts, where a dizzying array of lawsuits are already in progress. At stake could be the future of smartphones.
… Companies can often resolve their disagreements by licensing patents to one another. But antitrust officials in this country and in Europe are worried that firms won’t offer agreements that are on fair terms. In particular, regulators are concerned that companies will seek injunctions against one another that would force competitors to halt the sales of their products.