Telecom Timeout

Apr 4 2011   4:22PM GMT

What’s up with Google’s $900M dash for Nortel’s patents?

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Just when you thought the buzzards had stopped circling around what’s left of Nortel’s remains, the bankrupt data networking and communications giant announced Monday that Google placed a “stalking horse” bid of $900 million for intellectual property rights to about 6,000 of Nortel’s patents.

Google’s top lawyer claims that Google made the bid for Nortel because it wants its corporate frenemies to stop suing it:

“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,” wrote Google General Counsel Kent Walker in a blog post today. “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.”

Bloomberg News reminds us of some of the context:

Oracle filed a patent and copyright infringement lawsuit against Google last year over its mobile Android software, citing technology gained from the acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. Apple Inc. (AAPL) filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission last year against HTC Corp. (2498) for alleged patent infringement with its Android-based phones.’

Stalking horse indicates that this is the first of what will probably be many bids for Nortel’s treasure trove of patents, which BetaNews says includes everything “from integral 4G wireless technology to semiconductors, to search and social networking.” The blogosphere has suggested that Google will be up against Apple, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE and potentially even Microsoft.

What’s going on here? Is this just an expensive legal safety cushion for Android and Chrome development? Is it somehow related to Google’s fiber broadband project (for which Kansas City was just announced the first city for deployment)? Or does Google actually intend to start selling data networking gear? The latter is hard to imagine for a number of reasons–not least of which being its embarrassing Nexus One flop.

Chime in with your conspiracy theory in the comments section below or send us an email.

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