December 10, 2004

Service Oriented Patents

Service Oriented Architectures By: ams

CNET on CommerceNet:

A mysterious bidder paid $15.5 million Monday in a bankruptcy court auction of dozens of Internet-related patents–and then rushed out of the courtroom.

On the United States Bankruptcy Court auction block were 39 patents owned 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 a set of key technical protocols known as Web services, a popular method for exchanging business documents over the Internet. The protocols are in wide use today; Microsoft, IBM and other software companies both large and small have incorporated them into their programs.

The winning bidder was a company called JGR Acquisitions. An attorney representing JGR was mum about his client, dodging reporters’ questions as he rushed out of the court room at the close of the auction.

Attorneys for Commerce One and the bankers who solicited bids for the auction also declined to discuss JGR. A document the company filed with the court was scarce on information as well, so JGR’s business, its owners, its location and its plans for the newly acquired patents all remain mysteries.

Although the patents may be too broad to enforce or may be otherwise invalidated if challenged, the auction has drawn the attention of some big names in Silicon Valley, including Google, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. Representatives for those and about a dozen other companies convened a meeting last month to discuss the auction and the danger of infringement suits from whomever won it.

The companies also considered a proposal to pool funds in order to jointly bid on the patents and retire them if they won. But the effort apparently never got off the ground. CommerceNet, the nonprofit group that floated the proposal and offered to place the joint bid, did not participate in Monday’s auction.

I get the impression we have not heard the last of JGR…

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