Tuesday, November 16, 2004

E-COMMERCE PATENT AUCTION: I have to think this one will be worth watching. More than three dozen patents said to cover key facets of Internet transactions will soon be auctioned off by Commerce One, a bankrupt software company. Bidding for the portfolio of patents will begin at $1 million in the auction, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in federal bankruptcy court in San Francisco. Earlier this month, the patents were carved out from the rest of the assets of Commerce One.

The 39 patents cover basic activities like using standardized electronic documents to automate the sale of goods and services over the Internet. Some intellectual-property experts said that these patents, which have broad reach, could be used to challenge Web services like the .Net electronic business system from Microsoft or Websphere software from IBM. Those companies declined to comment, saying any discussion would be speculative at this point.

Speaking of "no comment," one of the interesting things I found about the article was that no one wanted to talk about it:

One of the partners of the law firm, Mark A. Haynes, was one of the lawyers who helped write the patents while working at Wilson & Sonsini, a leading Silicon Valley law firm, in the late 1990s. He declined to comment.

Microsoft executives also declined to comment on whether the company was interested in bidding on the patents. A Silicon Valley investor who is in contact with potential bidders, however, said that Intellectual Ventures, a venture capital firm founded by Nathan Myhrvold, a former top Microsoft executive, was considering making a bid. The company also declined to comment.
When no one wants to say anything, experience tells me that somebody, somewhere has plans for this portfolio. And you can bet that the ensuing litigation would be fast and furious.

What would be more interesting if there were law firms planning to get in on this action - could you imagine the fees generated from this if someone the likes of Niro, Robins Kaplan or McAndrews obtains ownership? It's a license to print money, I tell you.

I bet there are lots of prior art searches going on right now . . .

UPDATE: turns out, one law firm has already submitted a bid - Haynes Beffel & Wolfeld in San Francisco (reported in the NYT).

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