Apple may eye Nokia and RIM patents

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Apple may eye Nokia and RIM patents

Analyst predicts patent hunt.

Google's $US12.5 billion buy of Motorola Mobility might hurt Apple's ability to pressure the Android ecosystem and the iPhone maker may try to strike back by buying up more patent troves, Jefferies & Co said.

The brokerage sees Nokia, InterDigital, and Research In Motion's patents as potential targets for Apple.

Google has been under pressure to build a patent portfolio after losing out to Apple, Microsoft and others in a recent auction of bankrupt Nortel's assets.

Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility is an attempt by the Internet search giant to fend off increasingly aggressive legal attacks from rivals such as Apple.

"MMI in our view had the broadest and deepest patent portfolio amongst the wireless players," Jefferies said in a note to clients, adding the buy may spur Apple - sitting on a large cash pile - into making a purchase of its own.

"We believe Apple is a licensee of Nokia and pays significant royalties for cross-licensing ... Nokia likely has at least 50 essential 4G patents and likely over 100 essential 3G patents," the brokerage said.

Essential patents are key parts of technology standards.

Jefferies said RIM spent over $US5 billion in acquiring and developing its patent portfolio, according to its calculations, and has critical security related patents that Apple could pursue.

Based on the 63 percent premium Google paid for Motorola Mobility, RIM's could be valued at something over $US20 billion.

InterDigital, which is looking to sell itself and was reportedly being courted by Google, may also interest Apple.

The brokerage has a "buy" rating on Apple's stock and a $US500 price target.

(Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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