With 17,000 patents in its hands, Google may become the oppressor
Google has gotten the go-ahead to buy Motorola from both EU and US competition regulators, on the same day. It still needs approval in China and a couple of other places, but the major hurdles have been cleared.Regulators said that the deal posed no real threat to competition and so would approve the acquisition, however they are keeping an eye on what Google does next.
Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are worried about what Google plans to do next and particularly about the fact that Google has made no commitments not to use the patents it's about to get its hands on to file lawsuits against competitors.
Ironically, Apple and Microsoft have been more than happy to sue anyone that they believe infringe on their patents, rightfully or not, including Motorola.
However, Apple and Microsoft have said that they don't plan to use the Nortel patents, which Google lost last summer in a bid, offensively and they've also pledged to license industry standard patents under FRAND - fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms.
Google has not done the same with the Motorola patents, at least not yet, and regulators say that they'll be keeping a close eye on things and are prepared to intervene if they believe Google is acting unfairly.
Things are far from being clear cut though. Both Microsoft and Apple are threatening Android with their patent lawsuits. Google needs to fight back and it's one of the big reasons it bought Motorola in the first place.
What's more, it's easy for Apple and Microsoft to ask for FRAND licensing of industry standard patents, Motorola has a lot more of them than either company.
Time will tell whether Google uses the Motorola patents to defend itself or starts using them offensively, like Apple and Microsoft, therefore becoming the villain it set out to destroy.