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Nortel Patents Go to Group That Includes Apple, Microsoft, RIM and More

Nortel said late on Thursday that its portfolio of more than 6,000 patents has been sold for $4.5 billion to a consortium of tech companies made up of Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion and Sony.

“Following a very robust auction, we are pleased at the outcome of the auction of this extensive patent portfolio,” Nortel Chief Strategy Officer George Riedel said in a statement. “The size and dollar value for this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world.”

The winning bid requires approval of both U.S. and Canadian courts, which the company will seek at a joint hearing expected to take place on July 11. Nortel said it will work with the winning bidders in an effort to close the sale in the third quarter.

The consortium won the bidding, but a number of other players had publicly expressed interest or were believed to be interested in the patents, including one of the eventual winners — Ericsson — and Google, which had placed the initial $900 million bid to begin the auction process. Google had justified its initial bid by saying that patents are necessary given the increasingly litigious environment these days.

Google, as well as its hardware partners, face a number of lawsuits related to Android. Apple, for example, has sued HTC, while Oracle has sued Google directly and Microsoft also has claimed Android hardware infringes on its patents, suing both Motorola and Barnes and Noble.

The patents covered a broad range of areas, Nortel said, including all manner of telecommunications and networking technologies — wireless and 4G wireless, among others — as well as additional areas such as Internet search and social networking.

Even with the cash haul, Nortel said it still doesn’t expect to have any remaining value for common shareholders once it completes its bankruptcy protection hearings.


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