Apple’s Latest Weapon Against Android: Nortel’s 6,000 Patents


Photo by NontrivialMatt -
Photo by NontrivialMatt -

In a sign patents are playing an increasing role in protecting marketshare, Apple and a group of other companies paid an ‘unprecedented’ $4.5 billion to keep Nortel patents away from Google. How will the 6,000 patents be used? First stop, sue the pants of Android, experts predict.

Along with Google, Intel comes out on the losing end of an auction which ended with a price three times what experts expected. Along with Apple, Research in Motion, Ericsson, Sony and Microsoft EMC were part of the winning bid. The auction by bankrupt Nortel highlights “the defensive value of intellectual property in the fast-changing telecoms world, where established players are seeking to keep out new rivals,” Reuters reports.

Translation: the patents are all aimed at hobbling Android, which along with Apple has eaten telecom veterans such as BlackBerry-maker RIM for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “The consortium will go out and seek to make a return by prosecuting the other people, particularly the Android camp,” predicts one analyst.

Ironically, Google was given better odds early on for winning the auction, after the Mountain View, Calif. company bid $900 million in April.

The treasure trove of patents could also help Apple in defending increasing lawsuits. If a company sues you for patent infringment, the more patents you own, you can counter with infringement lawsuits of your own, according to the report. Recently, Apple has found itself in court, defending against patent-infringement claims from Samsung and others.

As Apple and Android fight for smartphone marketshare, the Nortel patent library may become important as the struggle potentially moves from retail shelves into courtrooms. As one German-based IP expert told Reuters: “Google lost an unprecedented opportunity to acquire a major bargaining chip.” For this round, at least – advantage Apple.

  • Jamal22

    “sue the pants of Android”  You mean “Sue the pants OFF Android.”

  • ??????? ???????

    “At this time at least – advantage Apple”==>”At this time at least – disadvantage consumers”.
    So it’s a good thing for us that Apple instead of improving it’s products to compete Android, will try to hinder Android’s development?

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    I think it would be more important for RIM to hinder Android’s growth because RIM is being even more affected by Android than Apple.  Either way, it’s always good to have the patents as a little leverage.  I doubt there’s anything in that portfolio that’s going to seriously hurt Android.  Even Oracle’s suit hasn’t hindered Android smartphone vendors from flooding the market with products.

  • prof_peabody

    This could work out great for consumers though.  It might put the brakes on Android development long enough for more reasonable, less anti-consumer products to move into the market like WebOS.  Overall, the market would be fairer, more open, and more pro-consumer if it was Apple vs. WebOS instead of Android.  At least the web is truly open.

  • techgeek01

    Hm. I’m curious if Google could have been part of that group or not.

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    Yes, because then things like WebOS have a chance.

  • jeanlouisnguyen

    This at least proves one thing. The players involved in the consortium (including Apple, Microsoft, RIM) were scared of Android, enough to get in bed with each other. Their move is brilliant. Each would contribute less than the amount initially proposed by Google, but pool an insane amount of cash. Buy those 6,000 patents from Nortel, promise not to sue each other, but opens the door to sue everyone else – as in, Google. Android fear has just been valued. And that’s $4.5 billion.

    That’s a magical, extraordinary, amazing thing for us, consumers. Let’s see if the court in the US and Canada approve the bid – since that’s the last remaining step before the lawsuits start flying towards Android.

    Happy Canada Day, by the way! :)