A consortium that includes Microsoft, Apple and Sony bid a whopping $4.5 billion in cash to win more than 6,000 patents and patent applications formerly held by bankrupt telecom company Nortel Networks. They beat out Google, which had started the bidding with a $900 million offer.
Nortel announced the results of the auction today. Others involved in the winning group were EMC, Ericsson and Research in Motion.
The patents cover “nearly every aspect of telecommunications,” according to Nortel — including wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, internet, service provider, semiconductors and also other areas, such as Internet search and social networking. They were coveted by the tech giants in large part for their value in defending against patent infringement lawsuits.
Microsoft appears to be giving itself double coverage by taking part in the consortium. The company struck a patent cross-licensing agreement with Nortel as part of an earlier strategic alliance, and Microsoft said previously that its rights to the patents would remain even after they were transferred to a new owner.