Apple gets antitrust OK for Nortel patents bid

The U.S. Justice Department has given Apple the go-ahead to make a bid on Nortel's trove of patents in a sale next week.

U.S. antitrust regulators have given Apple the green light to make a bid on 6,000 Nortel patents and patent applications, Bloomberg reported today.


The decision comes just weeks after news about the Justice Department looking into bids made on that collection of intellectual property. The investigation began after concerns were made about the winner gaining an unfair edge against the competition.

Those patents and patent applications are up for grabs in a sale that begins Monday through Nortel's law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. The sale was originally slated to occur last week, but was delayed due to what Nortel said was a "significant level of interest."

Google offered more than $900 million for the patent portfolio from the bankrupt Canadian telecom-equipment maker in April, leading Nortel to place a deadline for others to bid higher. The patents cover technology that includes wireless video, Wi-Fi, and LTE mobile data technology. In a report about Microsoft objecting to Google's bid earlier this month, Reuters noted that Google would be given the right to terminate Nortel's existing agreements if it acquires the patents.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2009. Its portfolio of patents and patent applications is valued north of $1 billion. Besides Google and Apple, Research In Motion and Ericsson are said to be bidders, with companies like Microsoft, Nokia, and Hewlett-Packard making objections to the sale.

The need for companies to have a so-called "war chest" of patents has become an increasingly important part of doing business. Mobile devices in particular have become the latest target of patent litigation, due to their combination of features that may have previously only been available in standalone electronics.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.


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