Table Scraps: Nortel Patent Auction Closes

by Jeff Wiener on July 4, 2011

As Jordan Richardson noted last week, Canada’s innovation culture is lacking. News of the conclusion of the 116-year epic of Nortel Networks Corp. had me reflecting on a few things over the weekend. It’s hard to remain optimistic about the tech and telecommunications industry in this country when one of the biggest and best companies has come and gone.

Last Monday, Nortel began the process of selling off all of its remaining patents. A consortium that included Apple and Waterloo’s Research In Motion snapped up some 6,000 patents, consuming all that was left of Nortel in a four-day auction. The final price tag, $4.5 billion, was evidence of just how much importance the patents still have.

The patents cover everything from key pieces of wireless technology to Internet search, social networking and even fibre optics. It’s quite a haul. Patents pertinent to LTE are also included.

For many giants operating in the tech and telecom fields, patents are vital pieces to future success. Intellectual property rights are, for many, a special piece of insurance that can not only help boost a company’s profile but exact a level of insurance against particularly nasty litigation suits down the road.

With Nortel’s crumbs having fallen from the table, it’s hard to ignore the symbolism of RIM having snapped up a chunk. The struggling company has been in the news an awful lot lately and could, if we’re being realistic, go the same route as Nortel. Is this a matter of Nortel unofficially passing the baton to RIM? Are we witnessing the systematic collapse of Canada’s telecommunications and technology industries?

The $4.5 billion bid came from a consortium that came about when the bids were reaching the $2 billion mark. It included Apple, RIM, EMC Corp., Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp., and other heavy hitters in the tech field.

With these giants clawing over what’s left from Nortel’s once plentiful table, what comes next? Nortel is officially gone, its innovation only a memory on an increasingly bleak Canadian technological landscape. Will another icon rise from the ashes? Or is Canada doomed to become a tech wasteland that will only serve as a cautionary tale?

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American and Canadian Judges Approve Final Nortel Patent Auction —
August 16, 2012 at 6:32 am
Nortel Bankruptcy Mediation Commences —
August 20, 2012 at 8:25 am

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