Faced with a lawsuit from Wang Global that contends the Navigator browser violates many portions of a decade-old Wang patent, Netscape last week blew the lid on six months of secrecy and took its legal defence public. Netscape officials are hoping that third-party Navigator developers will chime in because they stand to lose as much as Netscape.
The software maker posted details of the case to its mozilla.org Web site and called upon developers to help turn up cases of "prior art" - any use of the contested technologies before the patent date - which would render Wang's legal claims invalid.
Wang claims Navigator's "Save As" dialogue box and "Bookmarks" feature are protected by a patent for a video text system that was submitted in 1985 and approved three years later. Netscape claims the patent is invalid because the features in question were already being used in other products by 1985, such as terminal emulators and older video text systems.
Ironically, Wang is not targeting Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser with the patent infringement lawsuit. Many observers attribute this omission to the close relations between the two companies. Wang officials declined to comment.