Nortel Moves Closer to Selling Patent Portfolio to Google

By Josh Long Comments
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Bankrupt Nortel Networks Limited has moved closer to selling its vast portfolio of patents and patent applications.

The company announced on Monday that Canadian and U.S. courts have approved a “stalking horse" asset sale agreement with a Google subsidiary, Ranger Inc., for a purchase price of $900 million.

The orders from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice also establish bidding procedures for an auction that allows other qualified bidders to snatch Nortel’s patent portfolio from Google by offering a higher or otherwise better offer.

Qualified bidders must submit offers by June 13, 2011 unless extensions are granted, said Canada-based Nortel, the once massive telecommunications equipment maker that has been selling itself off in pieces.

The U.S. and Canadian courts must approve the sale after the bidding process is complete.

Google, whose Android operating system for wireless handsets has been soaring in popularity, is expected to have company in the bidding process. Bloomberg reported last month that Research in Motion is considering a bid for Nortel that would exceed Google’s $900 million offer.

Google has plenty of cash to buy Nortel’s patent portfolio, which spans the areas of wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, service provider and semiconductors.

As of March 31, 2011, the search-engine king had $36.7 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. Research in Motion, the BlackBerry maker whose stock has suffered a beating in recent months, has only a fraction of that amount on hand: $2.7 billion in cash, cash equivalents, short-term and long-term investments as of Feb. 26, 2011.

Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel of Google, indicated in a blog last month that the acquisition of the Nortel patents could dissuade the company’s competitors from suing Google for patent infringement.

Although Google has advocated for patent reform, “one of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services," Walker wrote.

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