Nortel Patents Sale's Pending

Nortel Networks Ltd. expects to launch the auction for its patent portfolio within a few weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

Prospective bidders reportedly include Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). Patent-licensing companies are in the running too; the report also names Intellectual Ventures Management LLC , InterDigital Inc. (Nasdaq: IDCC), and RPX Corp. The sale price is expected to be about $1 billion, a figure Light Reading has mentioned previously. (See Rumor: Nortel Seeks Bids for Its Patents.)

Why this matters
Analysts have long believed the Nortel portfolio could bring its owner a few billion dollars, particularly due to its strength in Long Term Evolution (LTE). It's time to start thinking about who gets that money (and who has to pay it).

Patent houses have been the expected bidders for some time; last year, reports flagged Mosaid Semiconductor and everybody's favorite patent plaintiff, Wi-LAN Inc. (Toronto: WIN) (Nasdaq: WILN), as being interested. RPX, which holds patents defensively in exchange for subscription fees, might be the bidder that most smartphone vendors and technology outfits root for.

The inclusion of Huawei and ZTE in the Journal's report is particularly interesting. Given that the patents were once called a Canadian national treasure, and given North America's suspicion of Chinese vendors, it's hard to see either one winning this bid without invoking a legal dust-up.

For more
Here's our previous coverage of Nortel's patent prospects.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:13:05 PM
re: Nortel Patents Sale's Pending

Amusing: Sale's apparently on hold because nobody would put up $1 billion.


"'If there was any interest anywhere close to $1 billion they would have picked a stalking horse in the original timeframe, a month ago,' one source said. ... Google was directly involved in a solo bid in the first round, while Apple bid through RPX, one source said."

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