Courts OK Nortel patent sale to Apple/RIM group

Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:10pm EDT
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By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) - Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Research in Motion Ltd and three other leading tech companies received court approval on Monday to buy wireless patents from bankrupt Nortel Networks Corp for $4.5 billion.

Judges in the United States and Canada approved the sale of 6,000 patents and applications, which fetched three times what some analysts expected from the four-day auction in June.

Nortel Networks Corp filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in January 2009 and courts in the two countries are overseeing the disposal of the company's assets as the former telecommunications giant winds down its operations.

The group of six that won the auction, a collection that bid as Rockstar Bidco LP, also included EMC Corp, Ericsson and Sony Corp.

The auction was "record breaking in terms of this case and in the patent industry generally," Lisa Schweitzer of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, which represents Nortel, told a Delaware Bankruptcy Court hearing.

The auction started with a "stalking horse" bid of $900 million by Google Inc, a company with a relatively small pool of wireless patents in a booming industry increasingly fraught with lawsuits over intellectual property.

The price paid after 19 rounds of bidding indicated the lengths the Apple group was willing to go to thwart the mobile ambitions of Google, according to analysts.

The winning group would likely try to maximize their return on the patents by using them to litigate against others, with Google and its Android mobile phone software first on the list, analysts said.   Continued...

<p>A sign is pictured outside Nortel's Carling Campus in Ottawa August 10, 2009. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>