Apple and Microsoft join forces to beat Google in Nortel patent bid

A consortium including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, RIM and Sony has beaten Google and Intel to a cache of potentially vital Nortel patents, after the company's intellectual riches went up for auction. The consortium paid $4.5bn in cash for over 6,000 patents and patent applications spanning a broad range of wireless, telecoms and online technologies, including 4G, search, social networking and VoIP systems.

Google had already put in a $900m offer to open up the proceedings, describing its interest in the patents as "a disincentive for others to sue Google." In the end, though, the haul went for more than four times that amount, with Ericsson adding $340m to the pot and RIM contributing $770m.

"The size and dollar value for this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world" Nortel CSO George Riedel points out in the company's press release. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of Q3 2011, though none of the failed firm's shareholders will see any of the proceeds.

Interestingly, Microsoft had already got its hand in the Nortel patent cookie jar thanks to a prior agreement with the company that, its lawyers insisted, would hold true even if a rival like Google bought the IP.