Google has bid $900 million for 6,000 of Nortel's patents "to protect them from falling into litigious hands".
The web giant's bid will be the starting point - the "stalking-horse bid" - that other firms will have to bid against. Google said it was bidding on the bankrupt networking firm's IP to build up a defence against patent litigation.
"The tech world has recently seen an explosion in patent litigation, often involving low-quality software patents, which threatens to stifle innovation," noted Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel, in a post on the Google blog.
He said such litigation was at times "motivated by a desire to block competing products" created by rivals.
Calls for patent reform - from Google and others - haven't yet lead to significant changes, he said. "As things stand today, one of a company's best defences against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services."
"Google is a relatively young company, and although we have a growing number of patents, many of our competitors have larger portfolios given their longer histories," he noted.
Walker said Google was eyeing the Nortel patents to create a "disincentive" for rivals to sue the firm, and to boost innovation in the open-source community. However, Google didn't specifically rule out using the patents against competitors itself.
Google is currently being sued by Oracle over its Android mobile operating system.
The Nortel patents cover a wide range of technologies, including networking, wireless, search and social networking, the Canadian company said. The auction is expected to be held in June.
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