Nortel has announced that U.S. and Canadian courts have approved the sale of Nortel’s complete patent portfolio to Google subsidiary Ranger, Inc., in an all-cash $900 million deal. Google announced its intention to bid on Nortel’s patent portfolio last month, and while no serious challengers have stepped up for the Nortel patents, in approving Google’s “stalking horse” bid the courts also set up bidding procedures in the event anyone wants to try to out-spend Google: bidders have to get their submissions together by June 13, 2011, with a final auction scheduled for June 20.
If Google’s purchase goes through, the Internet giant will find itself in possession of about 6,000 communications patents that Nortel either owns or for which it applied. The portfolio covers a broad range of wired and wireless communications.
Google has characterized its interest in the Nortel portfolio as defensive—by snapping up the patents, it prevents someone else from buying them and launching disruptive patent litigation against Google mobile products. Of course, Google could also use the patents offensively to challenge technologies from other companies.
Nortel filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and has been slowly selling off its assets in order to pay down debt. Another recent notable sale of Nortel assets came in March, when Microsoft paid $7.5 million for a substantial range of IPv4 addresses controlled by Nortel. The Internet has officially run out of free IPv4 addresses, which will spur a broader global conversion to IPv6 addresses worldwide in the coming years.
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