Maybe things aren't going to go as well as the anti-Android coalition may
Antitrust officials probing sale of patents to Google’s rivals
At the time, Google explained on its official blog that “one of a
company’s best defenses against . . . [patent] litigation is (ironically)
to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom
to develop new products and services.”
Then an unknown group calling itself Rockstar Bidco stepped forward with a
whopping $4.5 billion offer — turning the Nortel sale into possibly the
biggest intellectual-property auction of all time. The group, it turned
out, was a coalition of Google’s biggest rivals in mobile phones.
The sale immediately raised concern among some antitrust experts. This
week, the American Antitrust Institute sent a letter to the Justice
Department asking antitrust officials to begin an investigation of the
sale ahead of Nortel’s bankruptcy proceedings, set for Monday.
“Why is the portfolio worth five times more to this group collectively
than it is to Google?” said Robert Skitol, an antitrust lawyer at the
Drinker Biddle firm. “Why are three horizontal competitors being allowed
to collaborate and cooperate and join hands together in this, rather than
competing against each other?”
Microsoft, Apple and RIM declined to comment beyond prior news releases
announcing the patent sale.
Brian Kahin, a senior fellow at the Computer & Communications Industry
Association, said the companies don’t even have to litigate. They could
sell the patents to “patent trolls” — firms that don’t invent or make
products but acquire patents and then sue or threaten to sue bigger tech
companies for infringement.
“The one thing that’s significant here is you have three of the four
smartphone platforms ganging up on the fourth,” said Kahin. “You want
patents for an economic benefit, not as a legal instrument.”
Hopefully the Justice Department will put some teeth into this
investigation. If this is not an antitrust violation, antitrust violations
And, apparently, Canada is also investigating.
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