Microsoft, along with Apple and Research in Motion, have been granted approval to gain ownership of over 6,000 patents that were owned by the now bankrupt Nortel. The US Justice Department gave their blessings to the deal today, which was originally announced in July 2011. Those patents were sold off at action at the time for $4.5 billion.
Google had originally tried to buy all of Nortel's patents by itself for just $900 million but Microsoft, Apple, RIM and other companies teamed up to keep those patents out of Google's hands.
In its statement announcing the approval of the Nortel patent sale, the Justice Department said:
During the course of the division’s investigation, several of the principal competitors, including Google, Apple and Microsoft, made commitments concerning their SEP licensing policies. The division’s concerns about the potential anticompetitive use of SEPs was lessened by the clear commitments by Apple and Microsoft to license SEPs on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, as well as their commitments not to seek injunctions in disputes involving SEPs. Google’s commitments were more ambiguous and do not provide the same direct confirmation of its SEP licensing policies.
The former Nortel patents themselves cover a wide range of subjects and products including "wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, internet, service provider, semiconductors" and more. Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection back in 2009 and has been selling off its properties to pay off its creditors.