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Report: French government offers to buy Alcatel-Lucent's patents

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The French government and private equity funds offered to buy future licence revenue for a portion of Alcatel-Lucent's wireless patents, according to a Les Echos report, which did not name its source.

The potential deal, which would be put together by a government-owned entity founded to invest in patents, would involve around a quarter of Alcatel-Lucent's 29,000 patents, the report said.

While the value of the deal is unknown, Patents IP Global valued the company's intellectual property at €5 billion prior to the vendor obtaining €1.6 billion in loans in mid-December. The company has been working with RPX to exploit its patents with the aim of achieving annual sales of €500 million. However, the Les Echos article maintains that this exercise has generated little success so far.

A spokesman for France's finance ministry did not immediately have any comment, according to Dow Jones Newswires and a spokesman for Alcatel-Lucent declined to comment.

The French government, which is keen to keep the struggling telecoms equipment manufacturer afloat, has indicated concern over Alcatel-Lucent's ability to develop wireless technology for the U.S. market, given that the company's major customers are the U.S. operators.

The report noted that the effort Alcatel-Lucent has expended in developing its miniature lightRadio base station has come to little after Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility said they had no need for technology with this capability. However, Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. operator, said last year it would take advantage of the lightRadio gear.

In an effort to buy time for a restructuring, Alcatel-Lucent agreed in December to mortgage assets--including its patent portfolio--to investment banks Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. The deal triggered worries among French government officials that the country could lose valuable wireless patents to foreign banks.

For more:
- see this Les Echos article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article

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