Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

Summary: In a rare victory against software patent, a jury in the U.S. District Court in East Texas ruled that Eolas did not have a patent on the interactive Web.

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TOPICS: Legal, Browser, Microsoft
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The idea that someone could actually own a patent on the Web may sounds ridiculous to you. Alas, in these days of intellectual property (IP) lawsuits, it isn't only possible, it's actually happened. For years, Eolas has been successfully suing major companies like Microsoft for violation of its Web patents. So when Eolas went after Amazon, Google, Yahoo and other Internet powers for running Website with “interactive” features such as streaming video it was no laughing matter. But, in a victory against software patents, a jury in the U.S. District Court in East Texas, ruled against Eolas.

Eolas had long claimed that its two software patents 7,599,985 and 5,838,906 covered much of we now consider part and parcel of today's Web. Microsoft finally surrendered and other technology giants like Texas Instruments, Oracle and JP Morgan Chase paid off Eolas. But other companies weren't so quick to give up. Experts, like Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Web's creator; Pei-Yuan Wei, creater of the early Viola Web browser; and Dave Raggettm who created the <embed> tag have long contended that Eolas' claims were invalid.

While it was clear to the experts—and to your author who was the first person to report on the Web back in 1993--that Eolas' claims were bogus, until this decision Eolas had managed to maintain its patents against all comers.

In the usually software-patent friendly U.S. District Court in East Texas though Eolas received a rude shock. After years of preparation, the jury took only a few hours to rule against Eolas on all points. Worse still, from Eolas' viewpoint, the three upcoming trials that had been scheduled to rule on infringement and damages for Google, Yahoo and other companies, have also been canceled. Eolas will now need to restart its patent litigation machine.

Unfortunately, Eolas will probably do just that. The good news is that it will likely take years before Eolas will appear once more in a courtroom to take up this battle again.

Still, as Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media , said on Google+ about the decision, “The current patent system is a terrible tax on invention, as it requires real inventors to spend time in court rather than focusing on making real things happen. We must remember that the patent system was supposed to 'promote the progress of science and the useful arts,' not to enrich people who know how to work the legal system.” Unfortunately, he's correct and while this decision is a good one, the fight against software patents, even these specific ones, is still far from done.

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Topics: Legal, Browser, Microsoft

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27 comments
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  • Don't break your own arm patting yourself on the back

    "While it was clear to the experts???and to your author who was the first person to report on the Web back in 1993???that Eolas??? claims were bogus, until this decision Eolas had managed to maintain its patents against all comers."

    Nice, but hard to prove, just like everything else you write about.
    Cynical99
    • It does help to try, though...

      @Cynical99
      The article been referred to here is probably this one:
      http:// practical-tech.com/ network/ wais-and-web-the-future-of-internet-data-searching/

      [i]The[/i] first? Don't know. But it is dated April 1993.
      Zogg
    • So he finally got one right

      @Cynical99
      let him have it, it's not like it happens all the time.
      William Farrel
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        @William Farrel
        If you don't like what he has to say, why don't you go hang out somewhere where you agree with the writer? Or are you one of those sickos who enjoys inflicting pain on yourself? You don't see me hanging around Ed Bott's blog, but I'll bet you stay there and applaud regularly.
        thebaldguy
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        @thebaldguy
        You seem to have anger issues that you project upon others. Might want to get some help, plenty is available, to work out those anger issues.

        As for Steven, he's a big boy (at least he portrays himself as a big boy), and probably doesn't need help to drive people away from his blogs. He does it naturally.
        Cynical99
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        @Cynical99
        Thanks. Nothing like having the town drunk suggest that I should give up my glass of wine at bedtime. And thanks for reminding me that trolls are trolls, and always will be. ZDNet, I've heard a new comment system is on the way, please, include an ignore feature?
        thebaldguy
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        @thebaldguy
        Town Drunk? I'm a strict teetotaler. Never touch the stuff. You might want to take a look at that evening bottle you are stuck in though. First step is admission that you have a problem, the rest can be pretty painful, but people are there to help!

        As for Steven, still a loser hypocrite like always.
        Cynical99
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        Cynical99
        Busted! You're the Loony Toonz SJVN hater from CW! Holy CARP, now I know what a whack job I'm dealing with. OK, now that you've been outed, I know how to deal with you. First of all, find your lithium. It's your FRIEND! Those voices, telling you to hurt yourself and to burn down churches? They will go away. Unfortunately, they won't help with your "hatred" (snicker) of SJVN, that's too deep-seated. They won't help with your obsession with the word "typical," either. But they WILL make those mean voices go away! :-)
        thebaldguy
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        @thebaldguy
        "THE" SJVN hater from CW?? That would indicate there was only one. I suspect many at CW, including Dr. Joyce, despised SJVN's stupidity and lunacy. Still, I've noticed that ZD does a better job keeping Steven under control so at least a few of his articles resemble journalism, still weak, but beginning to bear a resemblance.

        As for your anger issues, you might want to move to, I think it's San Antonio. Seems that their water contains natural lithium. As for me, I'm fine

        Steven might want to move there as well. That anger issue he has for anything MS or patent holder is quite ridiculous in most cases.

        You have a good day, do find some help with the anger issues though, that extra stress leads to things like high blood pressure and general stress related issues.

        Do have fun, but you might want to let SJVN defend his own stupidity from time to time. Then again, he's quite defenseless in most cases.
        Cynical99
  • Partial list of companies who caved to these jerks

    Apple, Argosy Publishing, Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, JP Morgan Chase, New Frontier Media, Office Depot, Perot Systems, Playboy Enterprises International, Rent-A-Center, Sun Microsystems (bought by Oracle while this litigation was underway), and Texas Instruments

    Shmucks.
    thebaldguy
    • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

      @thebaldguy

      I do wonder if they can sue Eolas for their money back. After all the crux of their "settlement" has been declared invalid.

      I hope so as it would set an important precedent for all these patent troll lawsuits...
      itguy10
      • I don't see how.

        @itguy10
        Not unless Eolas were to admit that it had [i]always[/i] known the patents to be invalid.
        Zogg
      • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

        Disclaimer: I ain't no lawyer...

        Perhaps it might be viewed in a different way... Eolas could be pursued under the same statutes that regulate the Insurance Industry. There are 50 states in which the selling of a "worthless" indemnification can be pursued in civil court. Since every indemnification is time-valued, the companies could sue (at least) for a pro-rated relief refund from Eolas.

        That would teach Eolas for overstating their patents.
        jefmud
    • To their credit...

      @thebaldguy <br>...MS fought them. They lost, but they did fight, as they should have. <br><br>Let it never be said that I never praise MS for doing the right thing (and yes, I did side with MS against Eolas at the time).
      John L. Ries
  • Wow! So many companies paid to license bogus patents!

    [i]Surely[/i] all these companies had inspected these patents beforehand!
    [i]Surely[/i] the fact that they licensed them [i]proves[/i] the patents valid!

    At least, that's the tale spun by so many. When they're talking about MS's patent aggression, anyway...
    Zogg
    • There's a big difference...

      @Zogg <br><br>...between agreeing to license patents and being forced to pay by the courts. As I recall, Microsoft fought it and lost in court. And at the time, most everyone was on Eolas' side. I would imagine seeing Microsoft lose in the courts to Eolas prompted many other companies to settle.
      rapson
      • And yet the patents were bunk anyway.

        @rapson
        So the lesson here is "Companies licensing patents does [b]not[/b] prove anything about those patents' validity".
        Zogg
    • Probably a decision by the bean counters......

      @Zogg

      It was probably cheaper to cave in than to fight, so they caved.
      linux for me
      • Well, obviously.

        @linux for me <br>But the point is that Eolas has demonstrated that if a company chooses to license a patent, [i]even after fighting it, as MS did[/i] , it still does not prove that the patent is valid.
        Zogg
  • RE: Eolas loses landmark Web patent case

    The original article discussing this topic:

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/02/interactive-web-patent/

    states that the University of California was Eolas' partner in the litigation. Thus, your blog title should read "Eolas and the University of California lose landmark Web patent case".

    Kudos to the following companies for standing up and fighting:
    o Google
    o YouTube
    o Yahoo
    o Amazon
    o Adobe
    o JC Penney
    o CDW Corp.
    o Staples

    It's too bad that Barnes & Noble has to stand up to Microsoft on its own (although I happen to believe that Google is quietly providing support).
    Rabid Howler Monkey