US and EU Approves Google-MoMo Deal: China Still Thinking it Over

After months of anticipation, hair-pulling and nail-biting, the Google-Motorola Mobility deal was finally approved by the two largest obstacles in their path.  The European Union and the US Justice Department finally approved the $12.5 billion acquisition but said that they would keep an eye on Google, making sure that the search giant keeps its word that patents would be priced and licensed fairly.

Google announced their intent to acquire Motorola back in August of last year after they failed to acquire Nortel’s patents.   The Nortel patents were bought by an Apple-led consortium, which includes Research in Motion Ltd, Microsoft Corp., EMC Corp., Ericsson and Sony Corp.  The group agreed to pay $4.5 billion for 6,000 patents and patent applications.

Since the announcement, the Google-MoMo deal faced numerous obstacles and concerns from other OEMs using the Android platform.  The acquisition of Motorola could put other OEMs on the sidelines, giving Motorola all the early releases and updates for Android. Others are concerned that Google could monopolize the industry and use the massive patent portfolio of Motorola to take advantage of patent licensing and pricing, but Google assured those concerned that they would adhere to FRAND.

“This merger decision should not and will not mean that we are not concerned by the possibility that, once Google is the owner of this portfolio, Google can abuse these patents, linking some patents with its Android devices. This is our worry,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters in Brussels.

Almunia added that their concern wasn’t enough to block the merger so they will be vigilant in monitoring Google’s move.

The Justice Department separately announced that it was closing three investigations at the same time: Google’s purchase of Motorola; the purchase by Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion of certain patents from the bankrupt Nortel Networks; and Apple’s purchase of certain Novell patents.

“Google’s commitments have been less clear,” the Justice Department added in a statement. “The division determined that the acquisition of the patents by Google did not substantially lessen competition, but how Google may exercise its patents in the future remains a significant concern.”

Google still needs to get the approval of other regulators.  China, Taiwan and Israel still hasn’t approved the acquisition.  China has until March 20 to decide whether to approve the deal or begin the third phase of investigation.