Apple, Google Likely to Brawl for Nortel’s 4G Patents

Bankrupt Canadian telecom giant Nortel Networks is auctioning off its patents to the highest bidder, with both Apple and Google making a play for what’s available, according to a report from Reuters.

The patent sale marks one of the final gasps for Nortel, which at one time boasted a market capitalization of more than $250 billion and more than 90,000 employees. But now Sweden-based network equipment maker Ericsson owns most of Nortel’s North American wireless operations, its multi-service switch business and a Chinese joint venture. Ciena Corp bought Nortel’s optical networking and carrier Ethernet business, while the Canadian government is taking over Nortels Ottawa campus.

Nortel is said to have more than 4,000 patents, with a market valuation of about $1 billion. Some of those patents relate to wireless LTE and Service Architecture Evolution (SAE) technologies, key components of 4G wireless technologies. Apple and Google, who are both new players in the wireless business, are interested in acquiring the patents in private talks, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

Research In Motion and Motorola also are said to be eying the intellectual property.

The Reuters sources say the patents are being grouped into six “buckets” of related technologies, ranging from optical data to PCs. Potential buyers will study how widely Nortel’s 4G-related patents have been licensed, since the company went into bankruptcy protection before 4G was commercially viable.

Nortel owns seven of the 105 patent families likely to be essential to LTE and SAE, according to research firm Fairfield Resources. Nokia holds 57 of these essential patent families and Ericsson has 14. Nortel is on par with Qualcomm and Sony Corp.

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