Nortel Networks, one of Canada’s leading telecommunication technology companies during the 20th century, is bankrupt and in the process of selling off its assets, including its hefty portfolio of thousands of patents and other intellectual property. This week a high profile spat broke out between two rival bidders, Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, and mobile phone giant Ericsson. Nationalism is partly to blame (RIM is a Canadian company) but also at issue is the fate of Nortel’s patents. RIM is keen get Nortel’s patents related to wireless LTE technology.
By rough count, Nortel’s patent portfolio includes more than 3,500 granted U.S. patents, some 760 published patent applications, and approximately 1,000 Canadian patents and pending applications. Thousands more were granted under its former name, Northern Electric Co., which it officially changed in the early 1990s. This is probably one of the largest patent firesales in history.