The US Justice Department will clear a $4.5 billion deal for the rights to Nortel's patents, The Wall Street Journal reports. Google originally bid $900 million for the rights to over 6,000 Nortel patents, but lost out to a combined bid five times that size from six technology companies, including Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and Sony. The patents are seen as a key bargaining chip for firms wishing to license them to competitors or protect their own technology.
The Nortel patent sale raised antitrust concerns after the company filed for bankruptcy in January 2009 and announced its plans to auction off its patent portfolio. Google's initial interest was met with resistance from Microsoft and the latter company teamed up with others to bid for the patents following a $7.5 million purchase of 666,624 IPv4 addresses from Nortel in March last year. Regulators had been assessing the impact of the patent sale and whether the tech companies involved were planning to issue patents to rivals on a fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) basis. Samsung is currently under an EU antitrust investigation for alleged unfair use of 3G patents related to FRAND, and Google has assured various standards organizations that it plans to license Motorola's patents under FRAND terms following an acquisition deal that the Justice Department will also reportedly approve. Now it remains to be seen if the potential Nortel patent owners will also offer similar assurances.