Apple Part of Consortium That Buys 6,000 Nortel Patents for $4.5 Billion

Nortel just sold a shed-load of its patents at auction for a whopping $4.5 billion. The winning bidder? A consortium of six tech companies that includes Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, RIM and Sony.

There were 6,000 patents and patent applications sold in total, according to the press release, spanning wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, internet, service provider, semiconductors, and more…

Although it wasn’t clear how much of that $4.5 billion Apple put into the pot, RIM reportedly paid $770 million, while Ericsson paid $340 million. It is believed the consortium will split the portfolio based on the level of their investment.

However, Apple and its friends weren’t the only bidders: Google first opened the bidding at the sum of $900 million.

The number of patent disputes that have recently hit the headlines, particularly the ongoing spat between Apple and Samsung, are an indication of just how important these patents are to major tech companies. 105 of the patents are said to be essential to the deployment of LTE, which is, of course, the next-generation of wireless technology, and are therefore incredibly valuable to the companies that now own them.

Following the sale, George Riedel, Nortel’s Chief Strategy Officer, said:

Following a very robust auction, we are pleased at the outcome of the auction of this extensive patent portfolio. The size and dollar value for this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world.

It’s not all over yet, however. The sale is subject to applicable Canadian and U.S. court approvals and a joint hearing is expected to take place on July 11, with the sale set to close in the third quarter of 2011.