Nortel Chooses Google for 'Stalking Horse Bid' for $900 Million in Tech Patents

By Tracey E. Schelmetic April 04, 2011

Google has bid $900 million to buy patents from Nortel, reported Marketwire this morning. Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in January 2009 in order to restructure its debt and financial obligations. The period of bankruptcy protection has been extended to June 30, 2011.

The Google bid for the Nortel patents, said to be an attempt by the search giant to stock up on as many technology patents as possible, is being referred to the so-called “stalking horse bid,” meaning its bid has been chosen by Nortel to be the bid all others will be measured against. If the sale goes through, it will provide Google with approximately 6,000 patents and patent applications covering a broad range of wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, service provider, semiconductors and other patent portfolios.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to acquire one of the most extensive and compelling patent portfolios to ever come on the market,” said George Riedel, chief strategy officer and president of Business Units at Nortel. “We look forward to what we hope will be a robust auction, following the requisite court approvals, currently expected to be held in June 2011.”

Nortel will file the stalking horse asset sale agreement with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware along with a motion seeking the establishment of bidding procedures for an auction that allows other qualified bidders to submit higher or otherwise better offers, as required under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. A similar motion for the approval of the bidding procedures will be filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Following completion of the bidding process, final approval of the U.S. and Canadian courts will be required.

Google, for its part, is rather excited about the prospect. The company made a statement in a blog post this morning, noting that, “The tech world has recently seen an explosion in patent litigation, often involving low-quality software patents, which threatens to stifle innovation. Some of these lawsuits have been filed by people or companies that have never actually created anything; others are motivated by a desire to block competing products or profit from the success of a rival’s new technology. The patent system should reward those who create the most useful innovations for society, not those who stake bogus claims or file dubious lawsuits.”

Somewhat ironically, Google claims that the solution to this is for fewer companies to hold more robust patent portfolios. “But as things stand today, one of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services. Google is a relatively young company, and although we have a growing number of patents, many of our competitors have larger portfolios given their longer histories. So after a lot of thought, we’ve decided to bid for Nortel’s patent portfolio in the company’s bankruptcy auction,” said Google.

Though Google says that it would overall prefer to see patent reform, this step is the next best thing. “In the absence of meaningful reform, we believe it's the best long-term solution for Google, our users and our partners,” said the company.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

TechZone360 Contributor

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