Microsoft wants guarantees if Google buys Nortel patents

If Google ends up buying 6,000+ telecommunications patents as part of a Nortel bankruptcy proceeding, Microsoft wants some guarantees, according to bankruptcy court filings today.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Back in April of 2011, it came to light that Google was attempting to buy 6,000 or so Nortel patents as part of Nortel's bankruptcy proceedings. Google bid $900 million for those patents, according to Reuters.

Microsoft didn't bid on the patents. It didn't have to, company officials said, as Microsoft had "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."

On June 13, Microsoft made it clear that if Google's purchase of those patents proceeds, the Redmondians want some guarantees in place. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft objected to Nortel's proposed bankruptcy sale of more than 6,000 patents, telling a judge the deal could give the proposed buyer, Google "an unfair competitive advantage."

When I asked for more details, a company spokesperson sent me this statement via e-mail:

“Microsoft wants any new owners of the Nortel patents to be subject to Nortel’s existing commitments to Standards Setting Organizations and to Microsoft.  By making this filing, Microsoft preserves its ability to raise this issue with the bankruptcy court in the event the final buyer of the Nortel assets seeks to disclaim any of these commitments.”

Microsoft wasn't the only one with objections to the proposed Google patent purchase, according to Bloomberg. HP and Nokia also wanted guarantees.

Without changes, the proposed sale 'would result in considerable disruption in the development and enhancement of various existing technologies and give the prospective purchaser an unfair competitive advantage,' Microsoft said today in court papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware," Bloomberg said.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009. There were previous reports, dating back to the end of 2010, that Apple, Nokia   and RIM might also be among the bidders for the contents of Nortel’s patent coffers. The Nortel patents up for auction were said to cover wireless handsets and infrastructure, as well as optical and data networking, Internet, Internet advertising, voice and personal computers

In 2007, Microsoft and Nortel cemented a wide-ranging strategic partnership. Via that much-trumpeted alliance, the pair committed to take on Cisco by integrating and cross-selling their communications wares and by jointly licensing each other’s IP.

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