February 2, 2004 5:20 PM PST

MikeRoweSoft sell-off bids going, going...down

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Sky-high bids for papers associated with the trademark dustup between Microsoft and MikeRoweSoft.com came crashing to earth on Monday, after the seller put a curb on who could bid.

Mike Rowe, the Canadian teen whose MikeRoweSoft.com Web site caught the attention and ire of Microsoft's Canadian trademark attorneys, has put documents related to the conflict up for auction on eBay. By Monday morning, with three days left to the auction's close, bidding had risen to more than $200,000.

But shortly after noon PST, Rowe restricted the auction to preapproved bidders only. That brought the highest bid down to a comparatively affordable $8,300, which had been submitted Jan. 29. As the bids were being weeded through, however, the top bid dropped over the course of Monday afternoon to just more than $6,000, before 3 p.m.

By 5 p.m. on Monday, all existing bids had been cancelled and the top bid for the documents was the reserve price of $500.

Rowe has said repeatedly that he wasn't interested in making any money in defending his domain name, and he has offered to return contributions to his defense fund. Microsoft, embarrassed by a flurry of publicity over the dispute, has agreed to pay Rowe's out-of-pocket expenses.

Rowe, who was unavailable for comment on Monday, described the papers in his eBay listing as "a piece of Internet history."

"This is the book shown on TV, Internet, magazines and talked about on the radio and seen by millions of people worldwide," reads the description. "I am selling the WIPO book with the 25-page letter I received from Microsoft's lawyers on Jan. 14, 2004. I have two copies of these, and I will be keeping one for my own personal memoirs. This inch-thick book contains copies of Web pages, registrations, trademarks, other World Intellectual Property Organization cases, e-mails between me and Microsoft's lawyers and much more."

Microsoft originally told Rowe that his domain name infringed on the company's trademark, and it demanded that he transfer it to Microsoft in exchange for $10. Rowe refused, and the conflict wound up before WIPO, which arbitrates in domain name disputes. Rowe wound up settling for a Microsoft Xbox and other considerations from the software giant.

Past high-profile eBay auctions have tended to attract bogus, astronomically high bids that never get paid. In order to help filter those out, eBay encourages people who conduct high-profile auctions to vet bidders.

Rowe at first followed that recommendation by refusing submissions from first-time bidders with no feedback history at eBay, unless they contacted him personally before the auction and convinced him of their sincerity. After that failed to prevent incredible bids, he instituted the preapproval policy.

eBay itself also asks for identity verification in the form of a credit card number for anyone bidding more than $15,000 on an item. But that requirement only applies to eBay.com. Bidders who want to bypass the credit card disclosure can bid on Rowe's auction through eBay.ca. eBay said on Monday that it had put that discrepancy under review.

 

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