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12 July 2011, 11:32

Nortel patent sale approved

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Nortel logo The sale of Nortel's patents to the "Rockstar" consortium has been approved by bankruptcy judges in the US and Canada. The consortium – made up of Apple, Sony, Microsoft, EMC, RIM and Ericsson – bid $4.5 billion for the 6000 patent portfolio, beating Google's highest bid of $4 billion. According to Bloomberg, the courts in Delaware and Ontario cleared the transaction, making it the biggest patent auction in history.

However, there are still competition concerns. The Washington Post reports that Federal anti-trust regulators are looking into the transaction. The American Antitrust Institute, a non-profit organisation, has writtenPDF to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice urging an "in-depth investigation" into the deal. It points out that, in the case of Novell's patents, the DOJ intervened and forced the consortium members (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and EMC) to "open source" license the 882 patents in that case. Google said it was bidding on the Nortel patents to help it create a defensive portfolio to protect its open source Android operating system and ecosystem.

In the Nortel deal, there are more than 6000 patents covering mobile and wireless technology, including several that relate directly to the LTE wireless data standard. Nortel, a Canadian company, was a world leader in that field, but went bankrupt in 2009 after losing billions in the economic crisis. The patent portfolio was the company's major remaining asset.


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