Anti-Trust Officials to Probe Microsoft, Apple, RIM over Nortel Patents?

US anti-trust officials are investigating the recent sale of Nortel’s 6,000 strong patent portfolio to three of Google’s biggest rivals.

According to an article on The Washington Post, the American Antitrust Institute has written a letter to the Justice Department, asking its anti-trust officials to investigate the patent deal.

The AAI said that the consortium which bought the patents, which comprises of Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion among others, will look to stall the growth of Google’s Android platform using the patents.

Google had first bid $900 million for Nortel’s 6,000 patent portfolio, which covers patents related to Long Term Evolution technology, internet search and social networking. Google had wanted to acquire a strong patent portfolio to protect Android from legal assaults from competition.

However, a group named Rockstar Bidco came out of nowhere and offered $4.5 billion for the patents, five times the amount being offered by Google. As it turned out, the group consisted of companies like Apple, Microsoft and RIM, who have been accused of working together to prevent Google from acquiring the patents.

“Why is the portfolio worth five times more to this group collectively than it is to Google?” said Robert Skitol, an antitrust lawyer at the Drinker Biddle firm.

“Why are three horizontal competitors being allowed to collaborate and cooperate and join hands together in this, rather than competing against each other?” he added.