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Nortel patent portfolio draws bidding war: Apple vs. Google?

Nortel Networks said it is putting off the auction for its 6,000 patents and applications due to "significant level of interest." The move sets the stage for a potential Apple vs. Google bidding war.

Nortel Networks said it is putting off the auction for its 6,000 patents and applications due to "significant level of interest."

The Nortel auction was moved from June 20 to June 27 to accommodate the increased interest.

In other words, Google got the go-ahead from regulators to bid on Nortel's patents, but may wind up paying a lot more than $900 million if it wants the portfolio.

So what companies are likely bidders for Nortel's patents?

Look no further than the companies that filed objections to Google's effort to bid on Nortel's patents: Apple, Research in Motion, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia. Of that group, Apple clearly has the financial resources to outbid Google. Microsoft could also bid, but has a strong intellectual property portfolio in its own right. Nokia is another option, but a bidding war could drain cash and attention away from a restructuring.

The other companies would be complete wild-cards. Google has said that it wants Nortel's patent portfolio to defend against lawsuits such as the one Oracle has filed over Android.

Given that Apple just paid Nokia to settle patent litigation, Steve Jobs & Co. may be Google's biggest bidding rival.

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