The US Department of Justice is busy today: in the same report it released to approve the Google buyout of Motorola, the DOJ also announced that it has cleared Microsoft, Apple, and RIM for a $4.5 billion deal for the rights to Nortel's patents, which were purchased by a group of six companies last year. Google originally bid $900 million for the rights to more than 6,000 of Nortel's patents, but was overtaken by Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and Sony in an attempt to stave off Google's IP dominance.
Both deals cleared today have concerned the DOJ, EU, and other regulatory bodies with the same issue: improper or unfair use of patents to squelch competition. But the DOJ says that companies like Apple and Microsoft have made "clear commitments" to license essential patents (SEPs) using fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND), "as well as their commitments not to seek injunctions in disputes involving SEPs." On the other hand, in the case of Google's acquisition of Motorola, it finds that "Google's commitments were more ambiguous" regarding its SEP licensing policies. As FRAND-related lawsuits continue to heat up internationally, we'll have to wait and see if the DOJ's optimistic analysis holds up to reality.