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Friday, June 17, 2011, 07:00 pm PT (10:00 pm ET)

Apple approved to bid on Nortel patents, sources say

Apple has received approval to proceed with plans to bid on a group of wireless technology patents from bankrupt Canadian company Nortel, while significant interest in the patents has led to the auction being pushed back a week.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Apple, Intel and Ericsson AB will "vie with Google" to buy a trove of 6,000 patents from the telecom-equipment maker. RPX, a firm that preemptively purchases patents for clients to prevent them from being wielded, has also reportedly been accepted as a "qualified bidder."

The auction was originally scheduled to take place on June 20, but has been moved to June 27 due to a "significant level of interest" from other companies. People familiar with the matter said Apple and Intel had been accepted as separate bidders, while Ericsson and RPX were accepted as part of one or more consortiums.

Sources said earlier this week the U.S. Department of Justice had concluded an antitrust investigation into Google's $900 million starting bid for the collection. The DOJ reportedly didn't find any "major competitive" issues with Google's interest in the patents, and has had greater concerns about Apple.

Officials are scrutinizing both Apple and Research in Motion because both companies are perceived as being more aggressive with their intellectual property, insiders said.

Companies are interested in the group of patents mostly because it contains key technologies related to the fourth-generation Long Term Evolution standard, though Wi-Fi and social networking patents are also included in the lot. The presence of the LTE patents has raised concerns that the winner of the auction could gain an unfair advantage over competitors in the 3G 'arms race.'

BlackBerry maker RIM had been rumored to be "weighing an offer" to outbid Google, but the company's recent financial troubles make a bid seem unlikely.