In a fierce battle in bidding for Nortel patents, it took a consortium of top tech companies to outbid Google. Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research in Motion and Sony have teamed up to a pricey bid of $4.5 billion to win 6,000 Nortel patents. The gaggle of competitors has left Google out in the cold on a series of patents that could serve beneficial for Google as it fights of Oracle and Microsoft, both of which are out to limit (or benefit from) Android’s success.
Nortel Networks is a Canadian telecommunications company. Since filing for bankruptcy in 2009, they have been slowly selling their assets. Last week, Nortel auctioned its patent portfolio, which comprised of 6000 patents. Google made an initial offer of $900 million for the whole portfolio. Realizing that their top competitors colluded and were willing to pay any amount just to win the auction, Google didn’t improve its bid.
RIM put up $770 million and Ericsson added $340 million. The other splits are unknown but Robert Cringley indicates that Apple put up $2 billion for Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G patents. Microsoft and Sony chipped in $1 billion.
Prior to the auction, Google has been very optimistic in acquiring the Nortel patents. In a blog post, Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President, expressed that “we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community—which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome—continue to innovate.”
Losing the bid is a huge blow for Google. Out of the bidding companies, Google perhaps has the least number of patented portfolios. Acquiring the Nortel patents would have been a great way of defending Android in the courtroom. Over the last few months, Google has been a magnet for patent lawsuits, including the epic battle against Oracle. According to Florian Mueller, an intellectual property analyst and blogger, Google is currently facing some 45 patent infringement suits.
What’s next for Google? Instead of investing a soaring $4.5 billion, Google would have a cheaper route by hiring lawyers. They could file for antitrust and restraint of trade. Whatever the outcome, Google is still under a dark cloud.