The European Commission today approved Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. In a statement, the commission said it approved the transaction mainly because it would not significantly change the market around mobile device operating systems or the patents related to those devices.
Joaquín Almunia, commission vice president in charge of competition policy, said in a statement that the transaction does not itself raise competition issues. "Of course, the Commission will continue to keep a close eye on the behaviour of all market players in the sector, particularly the increasingly strategic use of patents," Almunia said.
The commission considered whether Google would be likely to prevent Motorola's competitors from using Android in the future but determined that to limit the spread of Android would not be in Google's self-interest. "It is unlikely that Google would restrict the use of Android solely to Motorola, a minor player in the European Economic Area (EEA) 1, as compared to operators such as Samsung and HTC," wrote the commission in a statement.
Also considered in the commission's evaluation of the deal was Motorola's significant patent holdings related to 3G and 4G/LTE technology, which are considered standards essential and covered under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly change the existing market situation in this respect.
Finally, the commission examined whether Google would be in a position to use Motorola’s standard essential patents to obtain preferential treatment for its services, including search and advertising. The commission found that Google already had many ways in which to incentivise customers to take up its services and that the acquisition of Motorola would not materially change this.
Google announced the deal to purchase Motorola Mobility back in August of 2011. Along with approval from the EU, the company will need approval from the United States, China, Israel and Taiwan.