Consortium snaps up Nortel patents

A consortium of mobile gear makers, and Apple, have joined forces to buy up a portfolio of patents belonging to the bankrupt telecommunications gear maker Nortel Networks.

The move is seen as insurance against patent trolls which have a nasty habit of buying up such patents and using them against companies which are trying to make products for a living.

According to Reuters, the consortium includes Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Sony and RIM who apparently wrote a cheque for more than $4.5 billion, in an auction that began early this week.

More than 6,000 patents and patent applications were sold in the firesale and covered wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, internet, service provider, semiconductors and other patents.

It seemed that each paid the cost of the patents was based on what ever they were most likely to need to see off rivals. RIM stumped up $770 million, while Ericsson paid $340 million.

Nortel, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2009, has already sold most of its physical assets.

The patents might however raise the eyebrows of the makers of Android hardware who do not seem to have the ability to cover themselves if the big makers of proprietary software decide to turn patent trolls themselves.