In 2011, a group of five companies spent the remarkable sum of $4.5 billion to purchase thousands of patents from Nortel, a bankrupt Canadian telecom. Microsoft, Apple, Ericsson, Sony, and Blackberry formed “Rockstar Bidco,” successfully keeping the patents out of the hands of Google.
After the sale, Rockstar became just another patent-holding company, albeit one with a lot of ammunition. A handful of engineers from Nortel stayed on in a small Ottawa office, working to dissect other companies’ products and bolster infringement claims. Rockstar also opened a small office in Plano, a minimal presence that it used to try to keep lawsuits in its chosen venue, the Eastern District of Texas.
Now Rockstar is retiring from the stage. A group of more than 30 companies operating under the aegis of RPX, a defensive patent aggregator, paid $900 million to acquire the approximately 4,000 “patent assets,” a phrase that includes both US and international patents, as well as patent applications. The group of buyers includes companies involved in active litigation with Rockstar: most notably, Cisco and Google. RPX itself paid $35 million of the purchase price.
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