If you read either the newspapers or the business press, you still won't really be sure about the details of Nortel's sale of its patents, but apparently some were sold to a consortium of Microsoft, Apple, etc. and some were sold to individual companies link here
. This is being played as a defeat for Google which made an initial bid and subsequent competitive bids but dropped out after the price rose above $4 billion. It might equally be viewed as a victory for Google, having made arch-competitors pay far more than they dreamed of having to.
The real losers here were us consumers who will pay more for things produced under the patents. We will also see less inter-company competition and less innovation. This further cements the already long standing position of the incumbents, which will also restrict innovation.
Still think patents promote innovation?
Although this is not relevant to my fundamental point that it is the consumer who pays for this monopolistic competition, there is a better account of the bidding arrangements at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/02/us-dealtalk-nortel-google-idUSTRE76104L20110702
If Google really wants to be in this space, it will drive them to a different form of innovation in order to be in the same competitive arena.