When Nortel went down in flames, its legacy was a trove of patents that any tech/telecom company would salivate over. Add on to the fact that patent litigation has now become offensive maneuvers in the tech sector, it was no surprise when the likes of BFFs (“best frenemies forever”) Google and Apple showed tremendous (albeit low-profile) interest when these patents came up for sale.
These patents were so important that Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Ericsson, and RIM actually joined forces to establish Rockstar Bidco (now Rockstar Consortium) to buy the rights to the trove. Apple dumped $2.6 billion out of the whole $4.5 billion to get access to these patents that Rockstar purchased. This was mostly a defensive move in case somebody sues.
Now Apple is going on the offensive. According to reports Apple now owns over 1,000 of these patents:
But getting full rights to the patent likely helps Apple use the patents offensively in its ongoing lawsuits. If you do not own a patent, but merely have licensed it, you can’t go out and sue someone for using the patent. Having outright ownership of a patent allows Apple to use the patents offensively.
This transfer of patents wasn’t a huge announcement so I don’t think Apple wanted to advertise this as a warning/deterrent. Apple bought these quietly, and I think it’s because they’re ready to use them with specific targets in mind.