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Google-Motorola Deal Likely but Scrutiny to Last



Google is likely to get the green light from European and U.S. regulators as early as next week for its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, but the company will likely face continued scrutiny over what’s seen as a lax pledge to license key smartphone patents, sources told POLITICO.

The development is part of an epic battle between mobile phone giants Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung and others in courts around the world over who owns the patents for what technologies — sometimes resulting in injunctions barring sales of certain devices.

“It’s kind of a Cold War being played out here,” said Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute. “We’re watching a form of warfare play out in which the system makes no sense but leads the players to mutually arm themselves with these missiles that they can utilize in order to achieve mutually assured destruction.”

Google tried to address antitrust concerns about control of Motorola’s rich portfolio of smartphone patents by issuing a letter Wednesday to 15 standards bodies saying that the company would be fair and reasonable in licensing some of the 17,000 patents it will acquire.

Motorola holds patents for standards such as Wi-Fi and online video. Some observers saw Google’s letter as a real attempt to assure regulators and competitors that the company would make the standards essential patents available in a fair and reasonable manner. It also listed the exceptions for when it would abandon its no-injunction pledge that some saw as ensuring that Google would continue to pursue injunctions.

“Google needs those patents because it is fighting a war,” said Robert Barr, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and formerly Cisco’s vice president for intellectual property and worldwide patent counsel. “They have to get approval.”