According to Reuters, a consortium of tech companies, including Apple, BlackBerry maker RIM, Microsoft, EMC, Sony, and Ericsson have won the auction to acquire Nortel's mammoth $4.5 billion dollar mobile patent portfolio. How much of that will come from Apple is currently unknown, though RIM is on the line for $770 million and Ericsson, $340 million. The companies are expected to pool the patents and use them both to protect against patent lawsuits and, of course, launch lawsuits of their own.
The patents cover "wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet and semiconductor technologies", with the LTE 4G patents expected to become extremely valuable as networks and devices are upgraded to that standard.
If you noticed one major mobile company conspicuous by their absence, you're not alone. Google appears not to have been part of the winning bid, which is perplexing since, as a new entrant in mobile, they have one of the weakest existing patent portfolios.
"Google lost an unprecedented opportunity to acquire a major bargaining chip that would strengthen it at the mobile industry's intellectual property negotiating table."
"I'm afraid it won't get a similar opportunity in quantitative and qualitative terms any time soon."
Android manufacturers are already paying Microsoft licensing fees for Android, and are being sued by Apple. Android developers are being sued by Lodsys and while Apple has filed to intervene in the iOS-related lawsuits, Google is still missing in action.
What that means going forward is hard to say, but manufacturer and developer confidence is part of the currency of any platform and it needs to be invested in and protected.