Apple is said to have acquired a stack of LTE 4G patents in preparation for possible legal disputes in the ongoing Apple versus Samsung trials.
Korean site Chosunilbo, claims that “Apple only developed 44 of it 318 LTE patents itself and bought the rest from Nortel and Freescale last year”.
Apple also holds a majority stake in patent enforcement firm Rockstar Bidco, which gives it another 116 LTE patents. So Apple has 434 in all, notes the site.
The Rockstar Bidco group, is another name for that coalition which also includes Research In Motion, Sony, Ericsson AB and EMC.
The Korea Intellectual Property Office told Chosunilbo: “This shows that Apple has been taking strategic steps to acquire intellectual property to prepare for potential legal disputes before it launches its own LTE smartphones.”
However, the site notes that there is a difference between commercial patents and standards essential patents. Standards Essential Patents (SEP) are subject to licence on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory ‘FRAND’ terms.
Apple was part of a consortium including Microsoft that bought Nortel for $4.5bn in 2011. The purchasing group, which also included EMC, Ericsson, Research In Motion and Sony, won an auction for the patents on 30 June. Google had hoped to buy the portfolio, making a $900 million "stalking horse" bid in April that set the minimum asking price in a multi-day auction. Apple contributed approximately $2.6 billion toward the cost of the Nortel patent acquisition.
Apple obtained 200 patents and patent pending applications from Freescale Semiconductor in May 2011. Freescale was once part of Motorola, and some of the patents originated at that company.
Google bought Motorola Mobility in May, in large part for its 17,000 patents. It has now laid off 4,000 staff, and closed a third of its facilities, but is now produceing Google-branded handsets.