Nortel today will begin the auction of roughly 6,000 patents as it looks to liquidate the largest remaining segment of its business. But it won't be just Google that shows up with a bidding paddle – a bevy of companies have come forward expressing interest in Nortel's remaining intellectual properties.

In April, Google entered a stalking-horse agreement with Nortel that put the starting bid for the patents at $900 million. Google would only get the patents if no one else decided to bid.

Google has made it clear that it wants the patents to defend itself against patent litigation.

"One of a company's best defenses against this kind of litigation is [ironically] to have a formidable patent portfolio," wrote Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel for Google, in a blog post, "as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services."

Walker added that Google is a relatively young company, and many of its competitors have larger portfolios.

The U.S. Department of Justice has given both Apple and Google the green light to participate in the Nortel auctions following anti-trust investigations.

Since Google's agreement, however, a variety of companies have expressed interest in the patents. Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Research In Motion and ZTE, among others, have all said that they are looking to participate in the auction.

Nortel says that 105 companies are interested in the patents, but the company has handpicked 40 parties to look at the patents and decide whether to participate in the auction.

The patents, which apply to both the U.S. and foreign markets, pertain to everything from 4G wireless technologies to semiconductors and networking.