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12 April 2011
The final piece of bankrupt telecoms equipment company Nortel has come up for sale – its vast patent portfolio.  Google has entered a stalking horse sale agreement with Nortel that could see it acquire all the firm’s remaining telecoms and technology patents for $900m (€622m) in cash.
 
Up for sale are some 6,000 patents and patent applications spanning a broad range of technologies: "wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, service provider, semiconductors and other patent portfolios," according to Nortel's statement. "The extensive patent portfolio touches nearly every aspect of telecommunications and additional markets as well, including Internet search and social networking," the company said.
 
Nortel has selected Google’s bid as the “stalking horse bid”, which sets a base value for the assets, and the starting point against which others will bid in the auction.  This procedure is followed to extract maximum value for the bankrupt company’s assets.
 
Google’s main motivation for the bid is to prevent patent trolls.  “If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community – which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome – continue to innovate,” wrote Kent Walker, senior vice-president and general council in the Google official company blog.
 
“As things stand today, one of a company’s best defences against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio. In the absence of meaningful [patent] reform, we believe it's the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners.”
 
By Pauline Rigby