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Google gets Motorola go-ahead, plus a warning

The EU’s antitrust regulator has told Google it can go ahead with its plan to buy Motorola Mobility, which develops smartphones and tablet computers, saying it would not “significantly modify” the market for operating systems and patents for these devices

Joaquín Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said on Monday that the $12.5 billion deal does not raise competition issues. But he added that the Commission will continue to “keep a close eye” on the behaviour of all market players in the sector, particularly in the increasingly strategic use of patents.

The Commission said it had analysed a number of factors as part of its assessment of the deal, including whether it would significantly change the existing market situation when it comes to the ability of makers of smartphones to access standards-essential patents.

It also considered 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 concluded that Google already had many ways in which to incentivise customers to take up its services and that buying Motorola would not materially change this.

The Commission is already examining the way that telecoms companies deploy their patents in disputes with rivals. At the end of last month, it opened a formal investigation into whether Samsung Electronics breached EU competition law by enforcing standard-essential patents for 3G technology.

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