Wednesday, November 24, 2004

COMMERCE ONE AUCTION UPDATE: Seems that companies are starting to pool resources to buy out 39 patents held by Commerce One, a bankrupt software company in Santa Clara, Calif., that's in the process of shutting down and liquidating its assets. The patents cover technical protocols that underlie popular methods for exchanging business documents over the Internet.

The upcoming auction has some big Silicon Valley companies on edge. Among them are Google, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. Attorneys for those and more than a dozen other companies held a powwow this week to discuss the patent sale and the danger of becoming targets of infringement suits by whomever acquires them.

They also discussed pooling their funds and jointly bidding in the Dec. 6 auction. A nonprofit group called CommerceNet, which organized the meeting, offered to collect contributions and manage the bidding. If the joint bid won, CommerceNet would essentially retire the patents. If it lost, CommerceNet would refund each contributor.

"It's a little bit like paying the blackmailer before they have something to blackmail you about," said Craig Smith, CommerceNet's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

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