Earlier this month Google announced a bid for key wireless technology patents owned by Canadian telecommunications company Nortel which filed for bankruptcy in 2009. And now, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is reportedly looking to out-bid Google's $900 million offer, Bloomberg reports:
RIM, maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, is weighing an offer that would keep Google from gaining control of about 6,000 Nortel patents and patent applications, said the people, who couldn’t be identified because the plans aren’t public.
Source claim "a group of technology companies, including mobile-phone makers," may also join the fray in order to keep Google from laying its hands on Nortel's patent chest. Apple, the most-sued technology company in the world, is also said to be one of the bidders. It's a valid assumption Apple would want to out-bid Google, RIM or whoever else may fight for those patents. Google's officially in the race, RIM is likely joining the bid. John Paczkowski of the Wall Street Journal's Digital Daily blog wrote last December that Nokia, Apple, Google and RIM were all participating in the auction.
Apple has a vast cash hoard of more than $60 billion. Company executives said a number of times they were keeping their options open and saving this money for big things, key acquisitions if you will that would give Apple a significant edge over its competitors. Patents are everything in the technology industry, even more so in a sue-happy place like Silicon Valley. Whoever wins the bid gets to control thousands of wireless patents said to be worth at least an estimated $1 billion. Clearly there are people willing to pay big bucks to own Nortel's intellectual property believed to shield from infringement lawsuits. Google's motivation is unambiguous, the patent portfolio will "create a disincentive for others to sue Google", their general counsel Kent Walker wrote in a blog post.
Apple, like pretty much everyone else in the mobile space, is engaged in legal battles with its rivals, namely HTC, Motorola and Nokia, over a bunch of wireless and cellphone patents. RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis notably called Nortel's patents in the past a "national treasure." The valuable patents cover key 4G LTE wireless technologies. Should Apple get them, they could theoretically seek royalties from everyone else in the industry while creating a disincentive for others to sue Apple, to paraphrase Google's counsel. This might be especially unpleasant for Android handset makers as Google's open-sourced software is said to be a patent bomb waiting to explode.