One thing that is reasonably clear is that RIM, in its last minute bid, was not actually interested in the company itself, having let its bidding opportunity lapse by invoking that it did not want to be subject to the disclosure rules.
RIM claimed that it should have the opportunity to submit a separate and apparently non-transparent bid, for reasons of keeping Nortel in Canadian hands. Nortel was not interested as it has a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value.
Despite some heavy lobbying, Industry minister Clement and Prime Minister Harper showed little interest in reaching down into a straightforward bankruptcy proceeding in front of an American court to test the validity of a Canadian nationalist industrial policy.
The Industry Committee of the House of Commons held some interesting hearings and will make a recommendation, but beyond some grandstanding about “Canadian champions” one should not expect too much from that quarter unless the Opposition decide to ramp up the issue.
So what’s the fuss? RIM has had patent problems from day one. It has sued aggressively and it has been sued aggressively. A patent firm, NTP, bought up a very old telecom patent and used it to get US$612 million out of RIM. RIM, one suspects, wants to protect itself from future patent litigation stemming out of Nortel patents, many of which may be wildly and ridiculously broad. Engineers worked for Nortel then for RIM, others for RIM then Nortel. Who knows what knowledge passed between the two companies?
RIM’s fear is that Ericsson could sell the patents or either use them as a legal club or block new patent applications as neither “unique” nor “obvious.” Ericsson once let RIM ramp up low-level patents into a major business line. Would they do it again? Things move rapidly and, yes, they probably would under the right conditions, not enabled by protectionist law suits.
To wrap this up and deal with the Canadian nationalist industrial strategy ploy, Ericsson is a respected multinational corporation based in Sweden, most prominently linked now to Sony Corporation of Japan. Canada is looking for more cooperative economic ties with both Sweden and Japan. Moreover, for RIM to consolidate its positionas a world leader, it would be counter-productive to pick fights with two significant international markets. If you aspire to be a global commercial brand, then learn to deal with companies who are, when they come knocking on your door.
At the end of the day, RIM, as is its right, is looking to protect its intellectual property exposure given some tough situations. Fine, good luck to them. But also, good luck to Ericsson in trying to make something valuable out of what is left of Nortel, when no one else, including RIM, was willing to take on the task.