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Nortel solicits bids for patents

17 мая 2010

Nortel Networks Corp. is soliciting bids for its massive patent portfolio, as the company tries determine whether a sale is the best route to recognize value, according to people familiar with the matter.

Interested parties are required to sign what is being described as a very strict non-disclosure agreement."Even the fact that...you signed (the NDA) is confidential," said one person familiar with the matter.

Officials from Nortel weren't immediately available for comment.

Nortel, once a high-flying telecom-network-equipment company, filed for bankruptcy last year and is now in the process of liquidating its assets. Its intellectual-property portfolio has generated significant interest in part because it includes a number of patents that are believed to be essential to the LTE (long term evolution) cellular-network standard technology. Most carriers plan to adopt the standard so a company that gains possession of essential LTE patents will be well-positioned to defend itself against infringement claims or could demand license fees from rivals.

Nortel, which is being advised by Lazard and Global IP Law Group, is divided internally over whether to sell some or all its patents or whether to retain ownership and monetize the portfolio through a licensing program, according to people familiar with the matter."There are still people at the company that want to license (the patents)," said a person familiar with the matter, adding that the portfolio consists of about 4,000 issued patents worldwide.

The solicitation of bids is aimed at determining how much the patents might fetch in an outright sale, the person added."If they don't get much interest," the company will push for a licensing strategy, the person said. Ultimately, the fate of the portfolio rests with creditors.

Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, is widely believed to be interested in the LTE portfolio. Last year, RIM contested the sale of Nortel's wireless network business to L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. because it wanted to bid on the LTE patents. Ultimately, Nortel ended up licensing some LTE patents to Ericsson, but it retained ownership.

Officials from RIM weren't immediately for comment.

While Nortel is soliciting bids, it isn't obliged to sell the patents, a person familiar with the matter said. This isn't an uncommon practice for companies weighing a patent sale, the person said, though the size and importance of the Nortel patents is unusual.

Nortel hasn't included any suggested prices in its pitch book, the person said, though, according to market talk, the company is seeking as much as US$1 billion.

Источник: Total Telecom

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