Well, they let them slip away. Thirty-nine patents, many of which describe Web services methods, were sold off to a "mystery" bidder at the federal bankruptcy court in San Francisco yesterday on December 6.
The San Jose Mercury News (registration required for link) reports that "Bankrupt Internet software maker Commerce One Inc. auctioned off dozens of prized online patents for $15.5 million in a sale that could provoke a legal scuffle over whether the new owner is entitled to collect royalties from a long list of technology heavyweights. A secretive company called JGR Acquisition Inc. wrested the patents from two other bidders with ties to former Microsoft Corp. chief technology officer Nathan Mhyrvold, who is now running a startup that hopes to accumulate a treasure chest of valuable patents. JRG attorney Mark Mullion of the Dallas law firm Haynes and Boone declined to discuss the company or its plans for the patents."
CommerceNet, the industry consortium, would not respond to my requests for information, but it can be assumed that major vendors took a pass on the idea of collectively bidding on the patents to keep their end-user customers out of legal harm's way. CommerceNet's idea was to have participating vendors chip in about $3 million apiece for the pooled bid -- a mere fraction of vendors' revenues.
We can only conclude that vendors will not put money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting openness. "Open" means open your wallets a little further, please.
A full report on the auction results can also be found here.