Of all that was once Nortel Networks, only the patents remain and even that not for long. Google has been selected as the stalking horse bidder for the entire portfolio, with an initial bid of $900M. That’s not the end by any means, all it does is set the stage for an auction in June. There will almost certainly be other bidders. Nortel had over the years assembled some 6,000 patents, of which 2,600 are in the USA. To put that in perspective, Apple claims 3800 or so, and MicroSoft says they have 18,000. So Nortel’s patent portfolio is quite substantial in terms of overall breadth.
What does Google want them for? Probably simply for defense, as they are active in many areas for which there may be patents out there that are relevant but untested. And Nortel had patents that Google probably doesn’t want to see in rival hands (think Apple or MicroSoft). But the same is probably true for a variety of corporate giants in and around the tech and telecom spaces, any number of whom might raise this bid above the $1B mark.
As well intentioned as the patent system was and is, the system as currently implemented is so dysfunctional as to be profitable only to lawyers. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be talking about how many patents but rather a few dozen particular patents that actually involve something new and innovative. The rest are sort of like anti-aircraft gun emplacements in third world countries – they never hit much but maybe one in a thousand will get lucky and hit something and they sure will scare off the seagulls and pigeons.
And to the Canadians out there, I realize these particular items are written in Canadian blood on sheets of palladium embossed with gold leaf and it causes visceral pain to see them sold to the highest bidder. Sorry about that.
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