Is Apple Preparing for a Fresh Patent Battle?

If intellectual property is the latest weapon in the battle for global smartphone supremacy, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is arming itself up rapidly. A Korean property rights regulator said in a statement that Apple had assumed control of 1,024 patents and patent applications from the Rockstar Consortium, a bidding group led by the iPhone maker that had won an auction for a package of Nortel Networks patents last year.

The Apple-led Rockstar Consortium, previously known as Rockstar Bidco, outbid a group led by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in August 2011 for a 6,000-strong wireless and LTE technologies patent portfolio belonging to in-trouble Nortel. Of the $4.5 billion total bid, Apple contributed $2.6 billion, while the rest came from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Sony (NYSE:SNE), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM).

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While Apple already had access to about 4,000 patents as part of that deal, the company will now have full rights to the ones transferred to it. Over the last six months, Rockstar has transferred more than 1,350 patents, of which the majority went to Apple, according to Korean publication Yonhap News.

It’s still unclear how many of the transferred patents directly related to telecommunications, but a total of 695 have now already been registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the rest are already in the process, signaling that Apple may be preparing to start using them soon.

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