How Apple led the high-stakes Nortel patent win against Google, sealing Ballmer’s promise

“‘It’s not like Android’s free. Android has a patent fee. You do have to license patents.’ That was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in an interview last year with The Wall Street Journal,” MG Siegler reports for TechCrunch. “At the time, Microsoft was on the verge of releasing their first Windows Phone 7 devices, and knew their best hope in the market would be to go after Android — the same OS which quickly ran Windows Mobile into extinction. In the months that have followed, right or wrong, it looks like Microsoft is slowly but surely forcing Google’s OEM partners for Android to agree with this stance.”

“Google’s last great chance to save Android in this regard may have been the Nortel patent purse — 6,000+ patents spanning mobile and wireless innovation,” Siegler reports. “Unfortunately, the search giant lost the rights to those patents in a bidding war with their rivals. As a result — pending government inquiries surrounding the antitrust implications of all of this — Android remains very vulnerable. Perhaps more so than ever.”

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“But the story of just how Google failed to secure these patents — which many had assumed they’d win — may be even more fascinating… Essentially, Apple decided to stake the Rockstar group in this high-stakes poker game,” Siegler reports. “If the U.S. or Canadian governments don’t now either block this result (which seems unlikely given that they approved the bidders beforehand) or force fairly drastic changes (such as they did in the Novell patent case), Google and Android seem in some very serious trouble.”

Much, much more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, Apple had enough money to outbid anybody on their own, but chose to do it this way (via Rockstar) for a reason or reasons, which might include antitrust cover and/or other legal reasons and/or to further some other strategic plan(s).

Related articles:
Google’s Schmidt worried and disappointed over Apple consortium’s Nortel patent win – July 8, 2011
RUMOR: Apple gets outright ownership of Nortel’s LTE (4G) patents – July 5, 2011
Google’s Android intellectual property headache looks set to become a migraine – July 5, 2011
Leaked bids show how Apple-led ‘Rockstar’ beat Google to Nortel patents – July 2, 2011
Apple consortium wins $4.5 billion Nortel patent trove auction; Google, Intel lose bidding battle – July 1, 2011
Intel gets antitrust approval to bid on Nortel patents – June 24, 2011
Apple gets U.S. antitrust approval to bid for Nortel patent trove – June 23, 2011
Apple, Intel among bidders for Nortel patent trove – June 17, 2011
Nortel delays patent auction one week citing significant interest – June 16, 2011
RIM looks to outbid Apple, Google, and Nokia for Nortel’s patent treasure trove – April 18, 2011
Google bids $900 million for 6,000 Nortel telecom patents in quest to boost patent portfolio – April 4, 2011
Apple reportedly bidding for Nortel patent portfolio – December 13, 2010


  1. i hope android sticks around. I’d much rather have android fighting with apple for first and second place than MS Windows phone. Although, a three way race would be better for consumers.

  2. That’s how Microsoft rolls… makes crappy products and uses its questionable portfolio of patents to bully vendors and force consumers into buying their inferior products!

  3. Either Google is freaking stupid or they are too arrogantly overconfident; instead of seriously bidding they were playing doodles with numbers. By the time they realize their mistake they have blown big time a one-time opportunity to defend Android.

  4. Google’s bidding on the Nortel portfolio reminds me of Leon Lett’s premature showboating in Super Bowl XXVII. Google was all kinds of cool with their hipster bids until Apple swatted the ball out of their hands mid-high-step. How’s that CEO crown fittin, Larry? A little snug?

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