The crazy gold rush for wireless patents hit a new milestone yesterday as the US Department of Justice approved several patent purchases and acquisitions. In the same report it released to approve the Google buyout of Motorola for $12.5 billion, the DOJ's antitrust division also announced that it has cleared Microsoft, Apple, RIM a few others for a $4.5 billion deal to buy a number of Nortel Networks patents.
The consortium of companies, which also included Ericsson, Sony and EMC, banned together to form Rockstar Bidco and made a joint bid that won them some 6,000 patents and patent applications from bankrupt Nortel Networks. Google had hoped to buy the portfolio to discourage lawsuits against its Android partners, but dropped out after 19 rounds of bidding. The company subsequently bought over 1,000 patents from IBM and announced plans to buy Motorola Mobility.
In approving the deal, the US Department of Justice said its concerns about the potential anticompetitive use of Nortel Network's standard essential patents was "lessened by the clear commitments by Apple and Microsoft to license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms" (FRAND). Of course both companies have been very active either filing lawsuits or forcing royalty fees upon competitors so we'll see how this plays out.
Rounding out its announcement, the Justice Department also gave its clearance to Apple's acquisition of certain Novell patents, which have been held by CPTN Holdings pending approval.