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Phone Rivals Gang Up, Outbid Google

Bankrupt telecom firm Nortel has finally flogged its hotly contested portfolio of mobile patents to Microsoft and Apple for $4.5 billion, leaving Google’s mobile mad men and Android architects royally miffed.

According to BBC News, a consortium of six firms led by Apple and Microsoft spent billions on the patents, amid fears that Mountain View could establish a monopoly on mobile if it secured the bankrupt comms firm’s patent portfolio with its opening bid of $900 million.

Microsoft had previously registered an official complaint,claiming that Google would be at an unfair advantage if it were allowed to buy the patents as it could then limit or block the use of technology already licensed to Microsoft via Nortel for use in Windows phones, to benefit its Android platform.

Hewlett-Packard, Nokia and Motorola Motability are thought to have filed similar complaints with the Delaware bankruptcy court handling Nortel’s dissolution.

In view of complaints brought by multiple Silicon Valley smartphone players, the US Justice Department launched an antitrust investigation to determine whether Google could use the Nortel patents to unfairly curb competition. The US Justice Department later cleared Google to bid for the Nortel patents.

George Riedel, Nortel’s Chief Strategy Officer, said that the multi-billion sale-price fetched by the patents is unprecedented, and reflects the increasing value of intellectual property in the burgeoning mobile marketplace.

Kasim Alfalahi, Chief Intellectual Property Officer at consortium-member Ericsson, similarly said: “The Nortel patent portfolio reflects the heritage of more than 100 years of its R&D activities and includes some essential patents in telecommunications and other industries.”

Alfalahi later added: “We believe the consortium is in the best position to utilise the patents in a manner that will be favourable to the industry in the long term.”

Photo Courtesy of Joi
Photo Courtesy of Robert Scoble