Apple taking control of some former Nortel patents
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:11am
Apple, which led a coalition of tech companies including Microsoft, Sony, Ericsson and RIM to outbid Google in order to win thousands of former Nortel tech patents, has been revealed to have transferred more than 1,000 of the patents over to its own exclusive control, AppleInsider reports. A report from a Korean property-rights regulator revealed the transactions, which has transferred a total of 1,350 patents to members of the Rockstar consortium, the vast majority of which have gone to Apple.
The iPhone maker was the leader of the coalition that bought the Nortel patents, putting up just over half of the $4.5 billion winning bid back in August 2011. Whether Apple has paid any of the other coalition members for the right to take some of the patents on exclusively, or has agreed with them to cross-license the patents it has taken is currently unknown -- but with all five of the companies invested in wireless technology, it's unlikely Apple has been able to "cherry-pick" just the most desirable licenses.
When Apple and the other companies that make up Rockstar originally won the patents, the deal was investigated but ultimately cleared by the federal Department of Justice as being unlikely to harm consumers. At the time, all parties involved in the bidding (which included Google) had promised to license any standards-based patents on "Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory" (FRAND) principles, though Google and Motorola had already been seen as adding conditions and caveats to their acceptance, which the DOJ at the time flagged as being "of significant concern" and which merited a closer watch on the two companies' behavior -- a prescient warning that has since been borne out, resulting in federal investigations into Google and Motorola for FRAND violations.
The Nortel patents cover mostly wireless techologies, including key concepts in both 3G and LTE wireless data. Google, which initially bid $900 million on the patents simply to prevent "patent trolls" from seizing control of them, ultimately stopped raising its bid well below the $4.5 billion pledged by Apple and its partners on the venture. Apple and Microsoft have a wide-ranging patent cross-license agreement, but it isn't known if the Rockstar patents are included in that agreement.