Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Report: Apple, too, has its eye on Nortel's patent portfolio

June 17, 2011: 3:33 PM ET

Said to join Google, Intel, Ericcson and RPX in a bid for 6,000 telephony patents

This was the week we found out how valuable telecommunications patents can be.

On Tuesday, Apple (AAPL) settled its long-running patent dispute with Nokia (NOK) for what analysts estimate could be as much as $1 billion in licensing fees.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had joined the crowd of companies bidding for the telephony patents put on the block when the Canadian telecom equipment maker Nortel went bankrupt two years ago.

More than 6,000 patents are at stake, covering some of the key underlying technologies of mobile communications, including Wi-Fi, social networking and LTE, the fourth-generation wireless technology now being deployed.

Among the companies vying for the patents are Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), Ericcson (ERIC) and a patent licensing company called RPX Corp. (RPXC).

Google started the bidding at $900 million, but it is expected to quickly go much higher.

Apple has a deep trove of patents in PC and user-interface technologies, but in mobile telephony it's a babe in woods compared with companies like Nokia and Nortel.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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