Microsoft Contests Patent Decision

By | December 10, 2004

Microsoft is in court today contesting a Federal Court ruling in favour of Eolas for $565 million. The court upheld a lower court ruling that Microsoft´s popular Internet Exporer browser infringed on patents held by Eolas, a company founded out of University of California.

The central issue I the case is whether or not Eolas´ patent covering “embedding small programs within browsers” – which Eolas claims covers all plugins and applets – is a valid one. Microsoft claims that there were prior cases of browsers doing just that – including an obscure browser out of Pei Wei that had just such an application. Eolas feels that Wei never pursued the idea and it is therefore invalid.

A Federal judge has already commented that the new facts may have merit. Judge Randall Rader commented that, “the district judge didn´t even let this be considered as prior art” by the jury.

If Eolas were to win this patent, the results would be disastrous. ActiveX, Java Applets and XUL are all technologies which enable the embedding of “small applications” into web browser. Some industry insiders even consider that JavaScript itself might be considered a tool to create “applications”, which – if Eolas were to pursue the patent to its extreme end – could mean the web would become entirely static with no interaction whatsoever.

While most people wouldn´t typically cheer Microsoft on, in this case I feel compelled to. If Eolas wins and does decide to go on a patent war ride nobody wins except for Eolas shareholders. On the other hand, seeing Microsoft win yet another lawsuit because of an obscure fact wouldn´t be incredibly heartening either.

Microsoft is also appealing to the US Patent Office to have the patent invalidated.

Leave a Reply