The Department of Justice has approved the sale of more than 6,000 of Nortel Networks Corp.'s highly coveted mobile tech patents to a group of buyers that includes tech giants Apple, Microsoft and Sony, as well as three others.
The approval, announced by the Justice Department alongside its approval of Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility on Monday, clears the consortium of tech companies to pay a combined $4.5 billion for the patents and patent applications that are considered crucial to the future of mobile computing.
The patents cover wireless technologies used in phones and tablet computers, including 4G data and data networking, semiconductors and optical devices. Nortel agreed to sell the patents to the six company group -- bidding under the name Rockstar Bidco -- in a 19-round July bankruptcy auction.
The other companies in Rockstar Bidco are BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, EMC and Ericsson. The Justice Department said the group's plans for the patents are to "license and distribute them to certain partners."
Those "certain partners" will certainly include some hardware and software producers, but there is a question as to how this purchase will affect Google and Motorola Mobility.
Google also bid for the Nortel patents; many consider Google to have one of the weaker patent portfolios in the mobile industry. Google's $12.5-billion purchase of Motorola Mobility was, in part, an attempt to bulk up its patent portfolio.
Although Apple, Microsoft and RIM are clear rivals to Google and its Android operating system -- which runs on more smartphones than any other software in the world -- other companies in Rockstar Bidco, such as Sony and Ericsson, use Android on their own products and are business partners with Google.