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U.S. Antitrust Regulators Concerned Over Apple's Interest in Nortel Patents

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. macrumors bot




    Last December, it was revealed that Apple was among the parties interested in bidding on a huge trove of patents from Nortel Networks that had been placed up for auction. While group of over 6,000 patents covers a wide variety of areas, Apple was thought to be primarily interested in those patents related to LTE and other mobile technologies.

    Competition for the patents has been heating up, with Google having launched the first salvo with an opening bid of $900 million for the entire portfolio of patents. According to The Wall Street Journal, federal antitrust regulators had initially expressed concern over Google's bid, but have since had their concerns satisfied. They do, however, continue to have concerns about Apple should it decide to officially submit a bid for the patents.
    Regulators have expressed concern over such a significant batch of intellectually being used by acquirers attempting to consolidate control of critical technologies, thereby stifling innovation.

    The official auction for the Nortel patents is scheduled for June 20th, with Google, Apple, and Research in Motion all reportedly interested in participating in the process.

    Article Link: U.S. Antitrust Regulators Concerned Over Apple's Interest in Nortel Patents
  2. macrumors G5


    Good that they’re considering these things.... Although from the outside, it sounds like similar logic should make them worry about anyone BUT Apple getting the patents, because Apple is so often targeted BY patent suits. Letting someone other than Apple have them could stifle innovation! :p

    (Especially when so much of other companies’ mobile “innovation” is just following Apple’s lead these days, and would not have happened without Apple doing it first.)
  3. macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Apple has a history of not letting other companies use the patents that could be another huge reason not to let them have them.
  4. macrumors 68000

    If they really want to stop patent holders from stifling innovation, they'll do something about the patent holding companies that do *nothing* except buy patents and sue over possible infringement.

    Personally, I think most (if not all) of the current patent & copyright ills could be solved by having them be non-transferable. The author/inventor gets the copyright, and cannot sell/gift/transfer ownership of it. They'd still be able license the use of it, and employment contracts could include a perpetual licenses for copyrights/patents created as part of the employee's job duties, but it would pretty much put an end to patent trolls, and corporations lobbying for ever longer and greater control over them.
  5. macrumors 6502

    That's the whole point of a patent. It gives the owner of the patent the "exclusive right" to the patented product.
  6. macrumors member

    Why Care

    Why do Antitrust Regulators even exist? If a company wants to make more profits by buying up some patents then let them do it. If said company does something immoral/something the public doesn't like, then they wont buy their products & the company has to change. It's called capitalism. Start regulating something that needs regulating, like the borders.
  7. macrumors 6502


    I'm guessing you're surfing MacRumors instead of paying attention in History Class....
  8. macrumors 6502

    History is often written by the winners, and in politics, the "winners" are often scumbags who pass evil laws and get away with it because the people are distracted by some other issue: EG: PATRIOT Act.

    The LAW of the land is the Constitution, and while patents are enshrined in the Constitution, there is no provision in the enumerated powers for the existence of Anti-Trust laws.

    Thus if you study the law, and particularly history as it pertains to the creation of the constitution and the powers that it grants the government, you see that the founding fathers were pretty clear on the matter.

    There's no point in smugly implying your opponent hasn't studied history, when you don't provide any reason or argument for your side. If your position is more defensible than his, why not argue the position, rather than to the person?

    PS- Your sig "Flash will be around a lot longer than Steve Jobs will" is quite offensive, and given that this is MacRumors, makes me wonder if you're trolling? IF not, put up an argument and some facts next time.
  9. 2 Replies, Jun 3, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2011

    macrumors regular

    IMO, patents should not be transferable.
    If a company owns rights to a patent, and it cannot make it on it's own then said IP should become public domain immediately.

    Or in the VERY LEAST, the selling of patents shouldn't be allowed.
    (So okay... if you buy the entire company, you get the patent with it's existing expiry. But no company should be able to toss up a bunch of patents then sell them.)

    You have a pretty obvious logical fallacy there.

    (just saying)
  10. macrumors G4


    Yes, that's the point of patents. They provide exclusive ownership of, and exclusive rights to, whatever they describe.
  11. macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    problem come is many of those patents in that group could cause major problems for the industry if they are not licences out and given Apple history that is a valid enough reason for the regulators to not allow Apple to have them.

    But you are right about that is the point of patents but Apple history says they should not be allowed to have this block.
  12. macrumors G4


    Patent owners are not required to license anything out to anyone. It's their property. The fact that the patents might or might not be related to "important" technology is merely incidental. Property is property. This isn't state-run enterprise.
  13. macrumors regular

    They're not worried about Google, but they are worried about Apple....... OK. :rolleyes:
  14. macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    please look up how Anti-trust works.
    Your arguments currently are not valid at this point.
  15. *LTD*, Jun 3, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2011

    macrumors G4


    Tell me "how Anti-trust works."

    We all know how it works, by the way. The question is whether regulations apply here (or *should* apply) and if so, to what degree.

    The argument is that any one company owning these patents runs the risk of stifling innovation. Does that include the original patent holder (not simply in this case but in general)? If I'm not mistaken we're just seeing x-amount of patents moving from one company to another. If Nortel were still in regular operation and would still hold all those patents, with powers to litigate accordingly, wouldn't the same worries arise?

    The interesting part is, and this is likely not applicable anyway, is that they're worried about Apple stifling innovation (and others in general) when Apple is really the one doing most of the innovating, at least at the consumer level.
  16. macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Difference is if just Apple controls them you have Apple long LONG history of not licencing out their IP for others to use. Apple has a history of blocking others.

    Google case is more they have a history of letting other use their IP. So if lets say Google owns them it does not effect Apple inventing stuff. It just means Apple competitors can use the same IP as well.

    If Apple owns them only Apple will use them and no one else will be allowed. This hurts innovations in the long run.
    Now the first method screws Apple because Apple does not know how to play fair.
  17. macrumors 68030


    Isn't it great you have to explain the definition of patents, on a weekly basis?
  18. *LTD*, Jun 3, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2011

    macrumors G4


    So Apple shouldn't get them because they'll end up using legally available mechanisms to protect them? Because they might exercise their rights?

    Is this the argument?

    OF COURSE Apple will not simply allow others to use them like a free-for-all. Others will have to pay licensing fees, IF Apple licenses them out at all. But that's their prerogative. What sort of precedent will that set, though? If some governing body determines based on this or that arbitrary set of conditions that your patents just so happen to be "important" ones, then you lose the very freedom otherwise granted to you by law to defend them?

    How is this supposed to work?

    Doesn't distributing these patents or somehow arbitrarily rendering them public domain *also* stifle innovation? If Apple held all these lovely patents then wouldn't others take some initiative and attempt to come up with better alternatives? But I fear this might be asking too much of the competition . . .

    Seems this also has the by-product of giving the competition a helping hand.
  19. macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime


    And we are back to Anti-trust. Remember when you are one of the big players the rules are very different. Apple getting control is much more likely to hurt innovations than others having control. Mix that 6k with what else they more than likely own and you have some real issues.
    Please leave the church the Church of Apple for a while so you can understand the problem at hand.
  20. macrumors G4


    The question is *not* about getting control. Getting control is fine. It's whether the new holder (or the original one?) *abuses* their control.

    I'm sorry but patent holders protecting their property under the law - no matter how fervently - hardly rises to the level of abuse.

    This anti-trust initiative, however, *is* ripe for abuse (based on just what's presented in the article, mind you.) It would be interesting to see the conditions that determine whether someone should lose control of their patents based on the assumption that they might seek to protect them under law at some point. Does it take only infrequent litigation to raise eyebrows? Once a year? Twice a year? Or are we talking several times in six months? This all seems very nebulous. Or maybe we don't have all the information. And I'm not just talking about Apple here but how this might affect everyone.

    Do these same anti-trust initiatives apply to the *original* patent holder as well? For instance, if at some point Nortel would have been more litigious, or if they were in operation today and would be more litigious with their patents, would they be subject to loss of control of the patents they own?
  21. macrumors 6502

    Actually, I think you should leave the Church of Google for good so you can understand that business is a dog-eat-dog world.

    Apple has sued for patent infringement only to protect their own product in the market. In my book, that's a fair use of patents. If a company hoards patents with no intention of actually using them to put a product on the market, that's unfair. But when a company (XYZ) has a product out on the market and competitors are using patented technologies in those products without licensing them, then XYZ has every right to sue.
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Of course they're concerned about Apple, Apple doesn't spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on campaign contributions to the scumbag politicians who appoint these pencil pushers.

    The US Government has no right to decide who or what business entity can buy something available in a public auction. If the buyer would later use the property they acquire in an illegal manner, that can be investigated and prosecuted, but they can't tell someone they're excluded because they don't like something about the way they do business.

    In granting permissions to bid on these patents, the government is granting favor to one company over another. They are giving some companies a greater opportunity than others. That is unconstitutional in every way.

    If the government has been given ownership of these patents and wants to divest them, then they need to hold a truly public auction, in which any interested party has the opportunity to bid.
  23. macrumors demi-god


    Exactly. Some companies would simply use the patents to receive royalties and/or carve out standards, while some would use them as a weapon. Regulators would prefer a new owner that had a history of sharing.

    Have any of the Apple patent lawsuits against other companies ever stated that Apple offered fair license fees and were turned down? Or did they just want to keep the technology solely to themselves?

    Other companies license their patent holdings, which gives them a fair return for their investment while also not stifling competing products.

    For example, Microsoft licensed their business critical Exchange ActiveSync to Google and Apple for their phones, even though that helped level the playing field.
  24. macrumors 68000


    Most of Apple's "innovation" is just following what those before it did and improving on it. That's pretty much what the whole industry is - taking what does well before you (or sometimes not so well) and making it better.
  25. macrumors 6502a

    Why should Apple (or anyone) be expected to license out their IP? It belongs to them. They expended the time, money and resources to develop it--or at least bought it according to the rule of law.

    Punishing Apple for not licensing out IP is ludicrous.

    I have a really nice TV, I worked hard to earn the money to buy it and I assume the costs to maintain it and provide it with programming. My neighbors unfortunately do not have nice TV's, they choose to invest their money in other ways.

    Am I expected to share my property with my neighbors? Will I be told by the government that I cannot buy a really nice sound system to make my TV better until I've first shared it with my neighbors who don't have one of their own? It's my property and I have the right to do with it what I like. The same goes for Apple and their IP, as well as any other company.

    If one company is forced to share their innovations with other companies who
    aren't able or willing to innovate on their own--then innovation suffers. Why invest in R&D at all if I know that Apple will soon be forced to let me use their stuff?

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