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Apple, Microsoft, RIM group bid wins Nortel patent auction for $4.5B


Canadian telecommunications equipment maker Nortel announced late Thursday that a consortium of companies, including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research in Motion and Sony, placed the winning bid in a high-profile auction for a collection of more than 6,000 patents.

"Following a very robust auction, we are pleased at the outcome of the auction of this extensive patent portfolio" George Riedel, Nortel's Chief Strategy Officer and President of Business Units, said in a statement. "The size and dollar value for this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world."

With a final bid of $4.5 billion, the consortium beat out Google, who had established the minimum bid for the auction with its $900 million starting offer. The search giant had expressed particular interest in the group of patents because, as a younger company than some of its rivals, it has a smaller patent collection.

Reuters reports that RIM's share of the purchase is roughly $770 million, while EMC paid $340 million.

The sale, however, is subject to applicable Canadian and U.S. Court approvals, A joint hearing is expected to be held on July 11, 2011, with Nortel expecting to close the sale in the third quarter of this year. Proceeds from the sale will go to Nortel's creditors and NNL preferred shareholders.

The patent trove drew a number of interested bidders because of it hold key patents related to the long-term evolution 4G standard. RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis has called Nortel's LTE patents a "national treasure." Other technologies in the collection span a wide-range of fields, such as wireless handsets, wireless network infrastructure, optical and data networking, Internet, Internet advertising.

Prior to the auction, Apple and Google underwent federal scrutiny over the their potential bids. Google received approval first to bid, while regulators were reportedly concerned over Apple's history of patent litigation. The FTC confirmed last week that Apple had been granted clearance to participate in the auction.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy in January 2009. On Thursday, the company obtained a court order extending a stay of proceedings until Dec. 14.