Courts clear Rockstar JV to buy Nortel patents

Dylan Bushell-Embling
12 Jul 2011

The consortium of tech giants that wrestled Nortel's patent portfolio away from Google has won court approval to buy the patent horde for $4.5 billion, but the deal may face antitrust scrutiny.

Rockstar Bidco – a joint venture consisting of companies including Android archrivals Apple, Microsoft and RIM – joined forces to outbid Google for the roughly 6,000 patents earlier this month.

US and Canadian bankruptcy courts have now approved the bid from Rockstar, Bloomberg reported.

A number of members of the Rockstar consortium - which also consists of Ericsson, EMC and Sony – had began the auction separately, but teamed up when bidding became too pricey to go solo.

But the consortium could still face a hurdle to the purchase, with non-profit advocacy group the American Antitrust Institute calling on regulators to investigate this uncharacteristic co-operation.

The Institute suggests that the bid could represent an abuse of the tech giants' combined power to prevent the growth of or otherwise attack Google's Android OS, according to Forbes.

Android is under fire from a number of fronts over patent claims. Microsoft is pursuing patent cases against manufacturers of phones using the Android OS, reaching settlements with a number of smaller players, and is reportedly seeking a $15 cut of each device Samsung ships using Android. It has also sued Motorola over Android.

Apple is also embroiled in a patent battle against Samsung over the Android-based Galaxy line, suing the company in the US and Korea, and is seeking an injunction on further sales. Apple yesterday also filed a new complaint with the US International Trade Commission against HTC over certain unspecified devices, in what may be another Android-related case.

Oracle also wants a slice of the Android pie - one worth $2.3 billion – and Google has comparatively little IP with which to defend itself. A win in the Nortel auction would have helped address this vulnerability.

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