Nortel, in its prime, was a Canadian legend in the making, set to make our country's history. And in the end, it did, but for all the wrong reasons.
As one of the final pieces of the puzzle, Nortel sold its 6,000-strong patent portfolio to a consortium consisting of Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Sony, and RIM for $4.5 billion in total.
But with Research In Motion as the only Canadian company in the consortium, the deal is far from done.
Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis has initiated an investigation, at the heart of which is the question: should Canada's foreign investment rules apply to this sale?
With just one Canadian company and five foreign companies, from the U.S. to Japan to Sweden, Canada will see only 17 percent of the portfolio remain on its soil.
The key rule under consideration is that any acquisitions of a Canadian business valued above $312 million by a non-Canadian organization must be of a "net benefit" to Canada, as determined by a formal government review. And this is enforced by law.
However, only twice in Canada's history has this rule ever come into play, most recently in late 2010 when Tony Clement blocked a $40-billion hostile takeover of Saskatchewan's Potash Corp by an Australian company.
Also, it's a foggy area, because Nortel's patent portfolio does not necessarily constitute a "Canadian business," which is required for a review to apply.
If the deal is broken, RIM has the best chance to still grabbing some of Nortel's patents. But at a net value of $4.5-billion, the portfolio is too large for the Waterloo-based BlackBerry maker to purchase alone. It will need to forge a new, all-Canadian alliance for make a new offer, should this one flop.