Google's bids on Nortel's patents raise questions

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) made bids for Nortel Networks' patent portfolio at an auction last week that aligned with famous mathematical constants, according to a Reuters report, puzzling many in its losing bid for the patents.

According to the report, which cited three unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Google made bids of $1,902,160,540 and $2,614,972,128, which respectively align with Brun's constant and the Meissel-Mertens constant. Google declined to comment on its bids, according to Reuters.

"It became clear that they were bidding with the distance between the earth and the sun. One was the sum of a famous mathematical constant, and then when it got to $3 billion, they bid pi," one source told Reuters, adding the bid was $3.14159 billion. "Either they were supremely confident or they were bored."

A coalition of six companies, including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), won Nortel Networks' patent portfolio for $4.5 billion in a bankruptcy auction, outbidding Google and Intel. The winning consortium also included Sony and EMC Corp., the IT storage and cloud computing firm. For Google, which made the opening "stalking horse" bid of $900 million in April, the conclusion of the auction was a significant letdown.

According to the report, five parties, including two consortiums, began the bidding: Apple, Intel, Google, a consortium of Ericsson, RIM, Microsoft, Sony and EMC, and a group led by patent firm RPX. Intel opened the bidding June 27 with a $1.5 billion, the report said, noting that the RPX-led consortium, which included Huawei, dropped out after the first round of bidding. On June 28, the report said, the Ericsson-led consortium stopped bidding, and then partnered with Apple. Then, on June 29, Intel dropped out and was persuaded to join Google's bidding.

Now, patent experts expect Google to continue to search for new patents, especially to bolster its position in the smartphone and wireless markets. "Assuming they were willing to spend at least the $900 million of their initial offer to achieve the result they were after, they're going to get there," Ron Epstein of Epicenter IP Group, a patent brokerage not involved in the auction, told Bloomberg.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Canadian press article

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