* EU vigilant for possible patent abuse by Google, others
* Deal still needs to be approved in U.S., China, Israel,
* Acquisition will boost Google's patent portfolio
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Feb 13 Google Inc won
unconditional EU regulatory approval on Monday for its planned
$12.5 billion purchase of mobile handset maker Motorola Mobility
But the European Commission said it would monitor the
company and rivals' use of patents to ensure they comply with EU
Web search leader Google wants to buy Motorola Mobility to
boost its patent portfolio in a deal announced last
The EU executive, which acts as the competition regulator
for the 27-member European Union, said the deal would not
significantly change the market for operating systems and
patents for these devices.
"We have approved the acquisition... because upon careful
examination, this transaction does not itself raise competition
issues," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a
But Almunia said he was worried about the possibility of
abuse of patents by Google and other firms now involved in a
series of legal disputes over intellectual property rights.
"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," he
"We might be obliged to open some cases in the future. This
is not enough to block the merger but we will be vigilant," he
The U.S. Justice Department is expected to approve the
acquisition this week, sources told Reuters last week.
The companies also need approval from Chinese regulators.
They are expected to decide by March 20 whether to approve the
deal or start a third phase of review, according to a source
close to the situation.
Regulators in Israel and Taiwan also have not yet signed off
on the deal.
Google announced in August that it would buy Motorola for
its 17,000 patents and its 7,500 pending patent applications, as
it looks to compete better with rivals such as Apple Inc
and defend itself and manufacturers using its Android
phone software in patent litigation cases.
The legal battles over patents between various technology
and smartphone firms has prompted the European Commission to
open an investigation into legal tactics used by Samsung
Electronics against Apple and whether these breach
EU antitrust rules.
A European Commission official said the regulator noted a
pledge by Google last week to standard-setting agencies to
license Motorola patents on fair and reasonable terms if the
deal were to succeed, but that the promise was not a decisive
element in its decision.
Microsoft Corp has also promised not to seek
injunctions to ban products based on standard-essential patents.