Mystery company buys E-Commerce patents

JGR Acquisition's strategy could be to collect licensing fees from other companies
Very little is known about JGR Acquisition Inc., the company that last week walked away with 39 patents during bankruptcy proceedings for Commerce One Inc., a once high-flying E-commerce software vendor. Yet many suspect this won't be the last the technology industry hears from a company that plunked down $15.5 million for the patents, beating out two other serious bidders in a spirited auction.

The patents, some of which haven't yet been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, cover a number of Web-services technologies. Among them is a recently issued patent that covers methods for interpreting documents in an E-commerce system, a patent for adapting trade specifications to find E-commerce partners that offer the best terms, and a third for using XML to enable code-free data integration between disparate data-processing systems.

Last month, a group of technology vendors met to discuss pooling funds to purchase and retire the patents when they came up for auction, out of concern that they would end up with a litigious party that could allege they're being used without licenses. But there wasn't enough time for companies to get board approvals for the funds, says Craig Smith, CFO and chief operating officer of CommerceNet, a nonprofit consortium that organized the meeting. A request to delay the patent auction was denied. Smith wouldn't reveal the names of the other companies involved in the effort.

CommerceNet's technical staff has reviewed the patents and determined that they're enforceable, Smith says. No one is sure of JGR Acquisition's motives; Smith says the company appears to be newly formed and the name intentionally inconspicuous. "You can't say the name without forgetting it," he says. Mark Mullin, a partner with law firm Haynes and Boone LLP, who represented JGR Acquisition at the auction, didn't return calls.

Among the possible scenarios, JGR Acquisition could enforce the patents and attempt to collect licensing fees, repackage and sell them, or use them as the basis for new products or to protect existing ones.