Google Tried Bidding Geeky Numbers For Nortel Patents; How About $3.14159 Billion?

from the taking-this-seriously? dept

Reuters has put together a nice recap of what happened inside the Nortel patent auction, which resulted in Apple, Microsoft, EMC, RIM, Ericsson & Sony getting the patents for $4.5 billion. There are a bunch of interesting bits of information in there, but one of the most bizarre is that rather than bidding round numbers, like pretty much everyone else, Google bid weird numbers that only geeks would recognize:
At the auction for Nortel Networks' wireless patents this week, Google's bids were mystifying, such as $1,902,160,540 and $2,614,972,128.

Math whizzes might recognize these numbers as Brun's constant and Meissel-Mertens constant, but it puzzled many of the people involved in the auction, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation on Friday.

"Google was bidding with numbers that were not even numbers," one of the sources said.

"It became clear that they were bidding with the distance between the earth and the sun. One was the sum of a famous mathematical constant, and then when it got to $3 billion, they bid pi," the source said, adding the bid was $3.14159 billion.
Yes, they bid pi. Really not quite sure what to make of this. It could be Google hoped that they'd be able to "signal" to geeks their feelings about the whole process (which the company had been pretty clear about all along -- it didn't want to buy the patents, and seemed to think the whole process was stupid, but it felt compelled to, because it would be even worse if the patents ended up with someone else). However, it certainly does come off as pretty damn cocky -- an attitude that Google is frequently criticized for. Still, it also suggested the level of seriousness (i.e., not much) with which Google treated this whole process. It had to bid a lot of money, but the numbers acted as a bit of a protest for the mess which put them in a position where they felt they needed to do so.

The other interesting bit in the tick tock was how the groupings came about, with coalitions forming as different companies dropped out. Apparently, Intel bid heavily, and when it dropped out, there was a fight between Apple (who put together the winning coalition) and Google over who it would team up with. Intel eventually chose Google.

Of course, that setup makes the whole process seem even sillier. Once they get down to two "teams" why not then just all join forces and set the bid lower (divided among more partners), rather than continue to use each other to drive the bid higher. Well, there's one reason: if the winning bidder intends to use the patents against the losers... Google (with Intel's help) wasn't willing to go to $4.5 billion, but it seems likely they'll end up paying one way or another, down the road, thanks to the new "winners" of the patents.
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Filed Under: geeky, numbers, patents, pi
Companies: google, nortel

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  1. icon
    anymouse (profile), 5 Jul 2011 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: better phones

    Learning from the general trends of the auto, banking, and home mortgage market fiasco's over the last several years, the next young group of ruthless business executives had no idea that their 'get rich quick' scheme would be the final straw that would cause the entire US economy to collapse overnight.

    When asked to explain how their 'get rich quick' scheme caused economic fallout that made the great depression look like a minor economic event, all their CEO, Dick ScrewedemGood could say was, "It seemed like the next step in the securities market... taking junk mortgages, combining them, collateralizing them, and selling them to unsuspecting investors as collateralized mortgage objects was such a resounding success that we decided to do the same thing with patents. We took all the junk patents, combined them into one big object, broke the object up into multiple 'options' that could be purchased, then sold all the options to companies looking to protect themselves from being sued for patent infringement. Sure we suspected that there might be some litigation here and there, but since nobody really knows what 'patents' are in the little pieces they bought, nobody should be able to use them to litigate... who knew the judges would decide that all owners had an equal share in all patents, resulting in the current nuclear patent litigation we have going on today..."

    Sure, I'm full of it now.... but just wait for someone to try it (I'm patenting this business model, so if anyone is interested, hit me up for the licensing fee).

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