Apple’s ‘Rockstar Consortium’ considering Nortel patent sale


In 2011, Apple teamed up with a number of tech companies including Microsoft and BlackBerry to form what many called the ‘Rockstar consortium’ to purchase a collection of over 4,000 patents from Nortel, a communications company that went bankrupt in 2009.

Bloomberg is now reporting that the consortium is currently holding discussion regarding a potential sale of a portion of the patents—which it paid in upwards of $4.5 billion for—after several attempts to land large licensing deals from other companies have failed…

Here’s Bloomberg’s Olga Kharif and Adam Satariano:

“A consortium created by Apple Inc. (AAPL), Microsoft Corp. and other technology companies to acquire $4.5 billion of patents from Nortel Networks Corp. in 2011 is holding discussions to sell a portion of those patents, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The group, called Rockstar Consortium, has recently been in conversations with possible buyers about the patents, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Rockstar, which also includes BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY), Ericsson AB and Sony Corp., has had little success in landing large licensing deals for the patents, three of the people said.”

The report goes on to say that potential buyers could acquire nearly anything from Rockstar’s patent portfolio—except for the patents involved in lawsuits. And because the group bought the patents at such a high price, any deal would be structured to avoid a loss.

Earlier this year, reports indicated that the consortium filed a lawsuit against Google, Samsung, HTC, and others for infringing on patents from their Nortel portfolio. Though Apple and other Consortium shareholders were reportedly not involved in the decision to sue.

It’s interesting to see how this has played out. At the time, Apple’s group got into a high-profile bidding war with Google over these patents, and many folks thought the search giant lost out big time when it lost the battle. But now it just looks like it avoided a big headache.