A Look at the Zany Math-Based Bids Google Made While Failing to Buy Those Nortel Patents

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When Apple, Microsoft, Google and others started bidding on a treasure trove of Nortel wireless patents this past week, the search giant from California made a series of, well, unconventional bids that had observers mystified.

Pi. Brun's constant. The Meissel-Mertens constant. An astronomical unit (93 million miles to the layperson). Are these the bids of a serious company, a ruse to throw rivals for a loop, or a sign that Google was becoming bored with the process altogether?

We may never know, but sources speaking with Reuters this week are spilling what they know about one of the more peculiar bidding wars to come out of the high tech space in quite a while.

"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. "Either they were supremely confident or they were bored."


If the ruse was one of supreme confidence it was misplaced, as Google ultimately lost the bid to a consortium of six companies that had partnered when the bids exceeded $3 billion. Those companies included unlikely allies in Apple and Microsoft, as well as RIM, EMC, Ericsson and Sony, although such partnerships are not uncommon when high prices and invaluable patents are on the line.

Google, for its part, told Reuters it was disappointed with the result (the company was an early frontrunner after placing an early $900 million bid in April. Perhaps they knew the bids would exceed their $4 billion cap all along, and were just having a bit of fun? Either way, joke's on them. [Reuters]