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Citing anonymous sources, John Paczkowski of Digital Daily reported Monday that the four companies are competing to buy 4G wireless technologies from Nortel. The company owns patents related to Long-Term Evolution and Service Architecture Evolution.
One source said that the winner of Nortel's patents would gain "a hell of an advantage" in the smartphone race. Phone makers are currently engaged in a plethora of lawsuits, and Apple and Nokia in particular find themselves in a complex legal battle that is expected to take years.
Last week, Reuters reported on Nortel's patent sales, and noted that sources said they "expect" Apple and Google to bid on the wireless technology. Monday's latest report, however, goes a step further to claim that the two tech giants have gone as far as to bid.
Nortel has reportedly completed one round of bidding on the patents, and has separated the inventions into different lots defined by the type of technology. The total collection of patents cover a number of wide-ranging technologies, including wireless handsets, wireless network infrastructure, optical and data networking, Internet, Internet advertising and more.
Final bids for Nortel's patents are due in a matter of weeks, but none of the four major handset makers rumored to be in the running have commented on the matter.
The patent-collecting arms race in the wireless industry has led to a number of lawsuits between all of the major players in the market. In addition to Nokia, Apple is currently engaged in legal battles with Motorola and HTC, two lawsuits that are seen primarily as an indirect attack on the Google Android mobile operating system.
A recent report indicated that Apple has been forced to "lawyer up" as it is the most-sued tech company in the world. As a result, the Cupertino, Calif., company has allegedly hired some of the nation's top patent lawyers as outside counsel.