Research In Motion

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Research In Motion

On top of our list is Research In Motion, whose co-CEO Mike Lazaridis once called Nortel's patent war chest a "national treasure." RIM, which has been hemorrhaging smartphone market share to Google's Android platform and Apple's iPhone, is reportedly weighing whether to outbid Google for the Nortel patents.

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Apple is certainly not patent poor, as evidenced by its recent infringement lawsuits versus Samsung, HTC, Nokia, etc. Again, Nortel's patents cover technology used in the iPhone, making Apple a perfect candidate to outbid Google. However, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is careful with the company's cash, so we ultimately think it will sit this one out.

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Cisco is no dark horse. Nortel's patents cover a lot of networking technology. Cisco just realigned with enterprise networking at its core. The math makes sense for Cisco to throw its hat into the Nortel patent ring.

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Like Google, Microsoft doesn't make the actual phones, but its betting its mobile future on Windows Phone, its new mobile operating system. Thus far, Windows Phone hasn't made any inroads versus Apple iOS or Android. Outbidding Google for the patents with a cool $1 billion from its Office war chest would score a huge coup versus its search rival.

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Nokia is hardly patent poor, but it is a mobile phone maker that is struggling with its software identity so much that it had to partner with Microsoft to make Windows Phone its core platform. Grabbing the Nortel patents would be another way Nokia and Microsoft, by virtue of their partnership, can combat Android.

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While Motorola has been on the comeback trail after hitching its wagon to the comet that is Android, it has stumbled of late. The company reportedly issued the Motorola Xoom Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet too early, resulting in weak sales and it erred by preannouncing its Motorola Droid Bionic 4G smartphone, only to push it back for a redesign. Plus, any wireless patents it can get to defend versus Apple, Microsoft and others is helpful.

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Like Motorola, Samsung is hungry to beat Apple's iPhone and other Android handset makers in the smartphone market. Grabbing the Nortel patents would be a serious boost to fortify Samsung in litigation with mobile market rivals.

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HTC was the first big Android phone maker to be sued by Apple for its smartphone technology. Some wireless patents would clearly help the increasingly strong phone maker, whose HTC Droid Incredible, HTC Evo 4G and ThunderBolt are popular handsets.

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Kyocera hasn't moved as aggressively as it could in adopting Android, but it could do better by going after the Nortel patents to help expand its Android smartphone line, which includes the Kyocera Echo dual-screen Android 2.2 handset in the United States.

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Android Phone, Tablet Makers

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry offers this graph of patent poor companies that could use a shot in the arm to help defend against Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and other potential mobile market litigants.

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