Apple and Microsoft's Rockstar Patent Group May Sell IP

While in the midst of a legal battle with Google, Rockstar is reportedly looking to unload some of its technology patent portfolio.

Rockstar Consortium, the patent-holding group that rose from the ashes of bankrupt Nortel Networks, may be shedding some of the intellectual property that it bought for $4.5 billion in 2011.

Insiders claim that Rockstar "is holding discussions to sell a portion of those patents," reported Bloomberg on Dec. 24. The group may already be lining up some buyers, according to the financial news outfit.

Recently, Rockstar held talks "with possible buyers about the patents, said the people [with knowledge of the plans], who asked not to be identified because the information isn't public," said the report.

Bloomberg notes that Rockstar has already sold off some patents. Spherix Inc., another patent-holding company, announced in July that it had acquired some IP from the group. "Spherix paid an undisclosed amount of cash and $1 million in stock; plus Rockstar will receive a percentage of future profits," stated the report.

The news comes after Rockstar, Google and several smartphone makers have become embroiled in a legal battle over the latter's Android mobile operating system.

Google filed suit in California on Dec. 23, asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment of non-infringement on seven patents that Rockstar claims Android infringes on. The move follows a lawsuit filed by Rockstar in Texas Oct. 31 against Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech, Samsung and ZTE. Rockstar alleges that the companies—all manufacturers of Android smartphones—infringe on patents involving mobile hotspot capabilities, messaging, notifications and VPN management, among other mobile innovations.

In its counter-complaint, Google argued that the consortium's legal actions have "placed a cloud on Google's Android platform." Further undermining Android, the group's activities included meeting with California-based device makers "to discourage them from continuing to use Google's Android platform in their devices, and to interfere with Google's business relationships," claimed the search giant in its legal filing.

Falling just short of labeling Rockstar as a patent troll, Google further argued that the group "is admittedly a 'patent licensing business' that produces no products, and instead exists solely to assert its patents."

Rockstar was formed in 2011 to buy the patent portfolio of bankrupt Nortel Networks, a Canadian telecommunications and IT networking equipment specialist. The group is backed by some big names in technology, including Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion), EMC, Sony and Ericsson.

The group spent $4.5 billion on June 30, 2011, to acquire 6,000 patents held by Nortel. Rockstar outbid Google, which made an opening bid of $900 million in April of that year. Describing the patent sale "as a blow to Google," an eWEEK article at the time said that the search giant "desired the patents to protect its Android mobile operating system from increasing litigation from Apple, Microsoft and others trying to compete with the open-source platform."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...