Apple, Microsoft, Sony, RIM bag Nortel patents for $4.5 bn

A consortium of Apple, Microsoft, Sony and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and others have successfully bid for a prized tranche of patents from the bankrupt.

Nortel Networks patent portfolio for $4.5 billion in an auction that saw Google and Intel bow out. The winning consortium also included storage company EMC and Swedish communications company Ericsson.

The result could give Apple and Microsoft a clear advantage in respect of future patents rows according to analysts.

Microsoft has already forced a number of companies to pay for using its patented technology which Google infringed upon with its Android mobile operating system. Oracle is locked in a legal dispute against Google with allegations that Android infringed a number of Java patents, and is claiming $6.1 billion in damages.

According to analysts, had Google won the bidding for the patents, it would have been better able to protect Android from patent infringement claims as large patent portfolios often serve as a counter-strategy against patent claims by rivals: cross-licensing deals effectively lead to a legal ceasefire. Google as a later entrant in  the field has few patents that could be used in such deals.

The current Nortel portfolio comprises 6,000 patents and patent applications across wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, internet, semiconductors and other patents. The most valued of these relate to mobile broadband technology that would be used in emerging 4G standards such as long term evolution (LTE).

In April, Google opened the bidding at $900 million and Apple and Intel then quickly followed suit. The three companies are relatively new to the highly litigious mobile industry which is witnessing increasing demand for smartphones and tablets.