Novell was the buyer of the Commerce One patents
The Novell gambit in its patent acquisition applied a bit of auction-house stealth in a court of law. Mark Mullin, a lawyer for a Dallas law firm representing a company identified as JGR Acquisitions, purchased the Commerce One patents for $15.5 million on Dec. 6. His last-minute intervention came after an unusual bidding contest between two intellectual property venture firms in which Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft executive, is involved: ThinkFire Services, where Myhrvold is chairman, and Intellectual Ventures, a private fund founded in 2000 by Myhrvold and Edward Jung.
Some Had Guessed
Several people in the industry had guessed that Novell might have been the purchaser after the company disclosed one-time patent- related expenses in its first-quarter financial report on Feb. 22. At the time, the company declined to discuss which patents it had acquired through a subsidiary. The company acknowledged last week that it was the secret buyer after a reporter inquired about the purchase.
Glushko, one of the inventors of the technology, congratulated Novell on its stance but warned that such defensive acquisitions would not solve all the issues confronting the industry over intellectual property.
"The problem won't go away unless the patent system is reformed to prevent anti-innovative and anticompetitive acquisitions of patents," said Glushko, now an adjunct professor at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley. "Novell did the Web services world a great service by keeping these key patents out of the hands of patent trolls and intellectual vultures."