Google may well clinch Nortel Networks' huge patent portfolio with its $900m bid, but even so the search giant will have to share the spoils with Microsoft thanks to a prior agreement the bankrupt firm signed earlier. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, talking to GeekWire, a 2006 cross-licensing deal means that the company already has significant access to the Nortel patent array, and that's not going to alter even after it changes hands.
"Microsoft has a worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free license to all of Nortel’s patents that covers all Microsoft products and services, resulting from the patent cross-license signed with Nortel in 2006" Microsoft statement
Instead, Microsoft contends, if Google - or another firm - buys the 6,000-strong patent portfolio, they'll also get a licensing deal with Microsoft in the process. The clincher is the "perpetual" part, which basically means that the prior Nortel/Microsoft agreement won't be dissolved even though the networking company is bankrupt and selling on the spoils.
What's still unclear is the extent of the patent access Nortel has had with Microsoft's IP, and whether that will carry forward to whoever buys the portfolio. Nortel has described the technologies included as "spanning wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, internet, service provider [and] semiconductors."