Apple Has Outright Ownership of Nortel's LTE (4G) Patents?
Robert Cringely claims to have some details of the deals that were in place for the $4.5 billion acquisition of Nortel's patent portfolio. The patents were ultimately won by a consortium that included Apple. The auction drew interest of many of the major players in mobile today due to Nortel's large portfolio of Long Term Evolution (LTE, also known as "4G") related patents.
Reuters recapped some of the behind the scenes maneuvering amongst the players. The bidding began with 5 different parties: Apple, Intel, Google, a consortium of Ericsson, RIM, Microsoft and EMC, and a consortium led by RPX. As the bidding increased, partnerships formed and Apple joined up with the Ericsson/RIM/Microsoft/EMC consortium. Meanwhile, Intel partnered with Google whose bidding "tapped out" over $4 billion. The patents were ultimately won for $4.5 billion.
Cringely claims that within the consortium were different arrangements for each party. RIM and Ericsson reportedly put up $1.1 billion together and includes "fully paid up" license rights to the portfolio. Microsoft and Sony also put up another $1 billion with unspecified terms, while EMC contributed $400 million for a subset of patents.
Meanwhile, the largest contributor of the consortium was said to be Apple who put up $2 billion "for outright ownership of Nortel's Long Term Evolution (4G) patents as well as another package of patents supposedly intended to hobble Android." Apple obviously has a large interest in LTE/4G for future iPhones and iPads. Apple recently settled with Nokia and agreed to a license of their patents for use in Apple's mobile devices. Nokia is also said to have a significant number of LTE related patents. Ownership of such patents could give Apple leverage and/or provide licensing fees from other mobile manufacturers that offer LTE technology.