The U.S. Department of Justice recently approved Apple's acquisition of various Nortel and Novell patents. The need to clear these purchases with the DoJ was for anti-trust purposes; after all, Apple already has a huge market lead, and any patents that could put competitors out of business would result in less choice for American consumers (which I think we can all agree is a bad thing). During the investigation, Apple had committed to licensing standard essential patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, and won't be seeking injunctions involving those key patents.  Though the Department of Justice has given the green light, they're still keeping a very close eye on the situation.

"In light of the importance of this industry to consumers and the complex issues raised by the intersection of the intellectual property rights and antitrust law at issue here, as well as uncertainty as to the exercise of the acquired rights, the division continues to monitor the use of SEPs in the wireless device industry, particularly in the smartphone and computer tablet markets.  The division will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to stop any anticompetitive use of SEP rights."

While the DoJ also approved RIM and Microsoft's acquisitions of some of the Nortel patents, only Apple was named in regards to Novell. There was a big hubbub around Microsoft getting in on a joint bid, and Google getting uppitty because they weren't invited to the party (even though they were).  Eventually, Microsoft had to open-source the patents they acquired, as the Department of Justice saw that they could potentially be used to put Linux out of commission.

It's also interesting to note that Motorola and Samsung may be suing Apple over FRAND patents in complete unfair, unreasonable, and discriminatory ways -- with the EU investigating at least Samsung over the potential abuse.

Nortel's patent portfolio may have cost upwards of $4.5 billion, but it includes some very attractive  technologies relating LTE, networking, voice, internet, and semiconductors. Once upon a time, Nortel was the crown jewel of the Canadian tech sector, and though it's sad to see its final remnants being chopped up like this, at least their accomplishments are going to work with the current industry leaders.

Source: Department of Justice; Image credit: Howard Lake