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Google drops $900m on Nortel patent bid

Alex Scroxton

Google has forked out $900m (£557.6m) in a stalking horse bid to acquire the patent portfolio of defunct networking vendor Nortel.

The portfolio of around 6,000 patents spans virtually every aspect of the comms and networking market, including wireless, 4G, data networks, optical, voice, internet, service provider and even semiconductors.

Google has now effectively set a reserve price, and other parties will now be able to attempt to trump its offer. Other suitors are known to include Apple and ZTE.

Typically, the provisions of such an auction process will also allow Google to see other bids and come back with an improved offer.

Nortel chief strategy officer George Riedel said the agreement was an "unprecedented opportunity to acquire one of the most extensive and compelling patent portfolios to ever come on the market."

He added: "We look forward to what we hope will be a robust auction, currently expected to be held in June 2011."

Writing on his blog, Google's senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker provided some insight into the search giant's thinking.

Noting the increasing prevalence of so-called patent trolls and tit-for-tat litigation in the market, he wrote that in the absence of genuine patent reform the best defence was a "robust patent portfolio".

"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," said Walker.


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