Los Angeles – Microsoft, Nokia, Hewlett Packard, and other technology companies joined forces in filing objections to Nortel’s proposed bankruptcy sale of more than 6,000 patents to Google, claiming that the deal would give Google an unfair advantage in the cell phone business.
Nortel is a Canadian telecommunications company that filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009. As of June 13, the deadline for bids to be submitted, Google was the highest bidder, offering to pay $900 million to Nortel for the patents. The winning bidder will walk away with a formidable patent portfolio that will give it rights to develop and license certain technologies used in wireless phones and infrastructure, Internet search, and social networking. LTE, one of the patents in the portfolio, is a 4G mobile-data technology that could be valuable for future generations of smartphones.
The companies opposing the sale to Google are concerned with the terms of the sale and insist that they be modified to protect the rights of license holders and standard-setting bodies. In papers filed Monday in United States Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, Microsoft stated, “Without changes, the proposed sale would result in considerable disruption in the development and enhancement of various existing technologies and give the prospective purchaser an unfair competitive advantage.”
Microsoft added that the winning bidder should be required to clarify what rights companies and standard-setting groups may have to use Nortel’s patented technologies. According to the proposed sale contract, Google has agreed to purchase the patents that are “subject to” most existing licenses. The auction is scheduled for June 20. Many are speculating that this will be the biggest patent portfolio sale in history.