Google bid “pi” for patents and lost

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NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) – At the auction for Nortel Networks’ wireless patents this week, Google’s bids were mystifying, such as $1,902,160,540 and $2,614,972,128.

Math whizzes might recognize these numbers as Brun’s constant and Meissel-Mertens constant, but it puzzled many of the people involved in the auction, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation on Friday.

“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.”

It was not clear what strategy Google was employing, whether it wanted to confuse rival bidders, intimidate them, or simply express the irreverence that is part and parcel of its corporate persona. Whatever its reasons, Google’s shenanigans did not work.

By Nadia Damouni

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