RIM May Challenge Google for Nortel 4G Patents

Research In Motion could try to outbid Google for Nortel's 4G wireless technology patents at a time when the BlackBerry maker is struggling to regain lost ground in the smartphone market.

Research In Motion may be getting ready to make a play for the Nortel Networks wireless networking patents Google has agreed to buy for $900 million.

Bloomberg said RIM, which has been hemorrhaging smartphone market share to Google's Android platform and Apple's iPhone, is weighing whether or not to outbid Google for the 6,000 patents and patent applications.

The publication also said RIM, fellow smartphone makers and other technology companies could band together to top Google's offer. Apple, Microsoft and Nokia are also among those who might bid as much as $1 billion for the patents to trump Google, considering the technology at stake.

RIM declined to comment for this story.

Nortel Networks, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and is trying to raise capital to pay off creditors, agreed to sell its wireless networking and other technology patents to the search engine April 4.

The deal is structured as a stalking horse asset sale, which means other companies may bid for the patents before they are auctioned off.

Google, RIM and others crave the patents, which cover technology used in Android smartphones, BlackBerry handsets and Apple's iPhone.

Many of the patents cover 4G wireless communications, also known as Long Term Evolution (LTE). 4G networks are as much as 10 times as faster than current 3G networks and are increasingly serving as the basis for smartphones in 2011.

Owning the Nortel patents would enable the buyer to demand licensing fees from companies that use the technology in their mobile phones and applications. Such patents could be useful at a time when patent infringement suits are being bandied about in a free-for-all across the mobile industry.

Apple is leading this lawsuit frenzy, invoking legal action against HTC, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung just this week.

Google said it desires the Nortel patents because it is patent poor compared with older competitors with deeper portfolios.

"If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community-which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome-continue to innovate," Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel, wrote in a blog post April 4.

It would also be dismissive to count out RIM, which has its back against the wall in a smartphone market where Android handsets have eclipsed BlackBerrys in market share and the iPhone has bested the BlackBerry in popularity in the United States.

Google won't have to wait long to see if its bid is successful or challenged by RIM or some other bidder. Nortel expects it patent auction to commence this June.