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More than three dozen key patents and patent applications for doing business over the Internet sold for $15.5 million at an auction in San Francisco’s bankruptcy court Monday. The patents belonged to Commerce One, a Santa Clara, Calif., software firm that is closing its doors. The high price reflects the value of the core patents, which cover basic technology such as standardized electronic documents that automate the sale of goods and services over the Internet. An entity identified only as JGR was the winning bidder on seven patents and about 30 pending applications. JGR was represented by Mark Mullin, a partner at the Dallas firm Haynes and Boone. The auction had reportedly caused a stir among Silicon Valley technology companies worried that whoever acquired the patents might use them in infringement lawsuits. There was no immediate indication of what JGR intends to do with the patents. Peter Detkin, former assistant general counsel of Intel Corp., was one of seven other bidders. Detkin bid on behalf of Brissac Electronics, an acquisition arm of Intellectual Ventures, a Seattle-based company co-founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. Detkin, who joined Intellectual Ventures two years ago, said on Monday that he could not talk about what the company is doing. But it is obviously interested in acquiring valuable patents. Detkin bid as high as $14.9 million before JGR came in with the final offer. The auction drew attention to the value of IP assets and also reflected controversy in selling patents through a bankruptcy proceeding. “Today’s auction sets the pattern for what’s to come,” said Ronald Laurie, of the IP investment consulting company Inflexion Point Strategy. “It validates the market for buying patents.” Laurie, who observed the auction before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali, said the number of bidders and the high level of interest in the patents were unusual in a bankruptcy proceeding. Commerce One hired the investment bank Ocean Tomo to evaluate its patents and oversee their sale. Ocean Tomo’s Nathan Cann said ComVest Investment Partners had made an offer, but “we felt they hadn’t placed enough value in the Web services patents.” ComVest acquired the remaining operating business of Commerce One. One of the inventors of the patents, Robert Glushko, would like at least some of the patents to be available on a non-exclusive, royalty-free basis. Glushko is married to Pamela Samuelson, a professor at University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and a leading proponent of preserving access to information via the Internet. Deirdre Mulligan, director of Samuelson’s clinic at Boalt and an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sent a letter to the Office of the U.S. Trustee last week in an effort to keep any buyer from demanding royalties on the patents. “Commerce One encouraged people to build around” the patents, Mulligan said in an interview Monday. The purchasers of the patents, she said, should provide “a royalty-free license to at least some of this technology.” The Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic was established in 2000 with an endowment from Samuelson and Glushko. The couple, who had received a windfall after Commerce One went public, decided to put their money into the law clinic. Detkin noted that another bidder was Bart Meltzer, Commerce One’s former chief technology officer and one of the inventors named in the patents. Meltzer could not be reached for comment.

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