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Re: The Eolas '906 patent backgrounder

From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson@RealMeasures.dyndns.org>
Date: Mon, 01 Sep 2003 23:57:30 -0400
Message-ID: <3F54152A.8E80F044@RealMeasures.dyndns.org>
To: rms@computerbytesman.com, public-web-plugins@w3.org
Cc: narnett@verity.com, www-talk@w3.org


"Richard M. Smith" wrote:
> 
> I've start collecting material from the Web related to the Eolas '906
> patent.  Here's a draft version of the backgrounder:
> 
>    http://www.computerbytesman.com/906patent/

Thanks, Richard!  See below.

From http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-talk/1995JulAug/0456.html
(1995):

At 6:55 PM 8/21/95, Nick Arnett (narnett@verity.com) wrote (Message-Id:
<ac5ee5e50002100476c4@[192.187.143.12]>):

< SNIP >

> I'm somewhat familiar with the subject of the patent; we even interviewed
> one of its inventors for a Web technical lead position at Verity, about a
> year ago.  I'm not particularly worried about the impact it would have on
> things like Java and such.  I believe that this invention was shopped
> around to various companies.  One might read a bit into the fact that in
> the end, it wasn't acquired by a third party but by a company led by the
> inventor.  Of course, this might mean either that it's so valuable that
> no one else could afford it... or it could mean that no one else thought
> it was worth acquiring.


Please note what happened here.

Whether this was shopped around or not, what we see here is a transfer to a
private entity of the fruits of a publicly-funded research effort.

This is "valid" only because of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act.  Remember that?

The whole software patent debacle came about, in large measure, as a result
of Bayh-Dole.

The Bayh-Dole Act is responsible for the fact that software patents have
been able to go so far without the benefit of being held to review according
to the most ordinary considerations of public policy principles related to
exclusive rights.  Throughout the history of universities, academia has long
been the chief articulator of the principles according to which software
patents would plainly be seen as of dubious worth, the most natural champion
that understands the intrinsic public good that is knowledge as such.

The Bayh-Dole Act "bought out" academia for the software patent issue.  It
said that software developed with public funds at academic research
institutions could be transferred to private entities in highly lucrative
deals (sealed from public view).  So while many academicians have noted the
problem with software patents, Bayh-Dole turned their institutions against
them -- and therefore against the prospect of their institutions finding
their natural voice in support of them.

Mike Doyle was only able to acquire private rights to this "software patent"
because of Bayh-Dole.

It's not so much a question of the quality of the patent as evidenced by
speculation that it was "shopped around" and ostensibly only acquired by the
inventor himself in the end.  The inventor developed the technology while he
was employed by the University of California, from which he acquired the
rights to it -- and he did so with the support of the university's
"technology transfer" office.

You can see the actual genesis in the press release below.

Seth Johnson


> http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=DDouKH.79E%40world.std.com&oe=UTF-8&output=gplain

From: srctran@world.std.com (Gregory Aharonian)
Subject: PATNEWS: Eolas claiming rights to embedded apps over the Web
Date: 1995/08/22
newsgroups:
misc.int-property,misc.legal.computing,comp.software-eng,comp.infosystems.www.misc

< SNIP >

EOLAS ACQUIRES COMMERCIAL RIGHTS TO KEY WORLD WIDE WEB PATENT

8/21/95  CHICAGO:  Eolas Technologies Inc. announced today that it has
completed a licensing agreement with the University of California for the
exclusive rights to a pending patent covering the use of embedded program
objects, or "applets," within World Wide Web documents.

Also covered is the use of any algorithm which implements dynamic
bi-directional communications between Web browsers and external
applications.

This development will have a major impact on the ability of Internet content
providers to exploit the expanding interactive capabilities of the Web to
gain advantage in the highly competitive online market.

Currently, various combinations of embedded applets and software development
APIs (application development interfaces) are major features of Web browsers
from Netscape, Spyglass, Microsoft, AOL/Navisoft, NeXT, and Sun Microsystems
(especially Sun's new Java language.  A quote from the current Forbes ASAP
states "Browsers and servers may come and go, but Sun's breakthrough Java
language, OR SOMETHING LIKE IT, will be the key to a truly interactive
Internet...").  Talks have been going on for several months between Eolas
and several of these companies regarding both the licensing of the
underlying technology and associated products.

The licensed technology was invented in 1993 by a team led by Eolas CEO, Dr.
Michael Doyle, a UCSF faculty member and past Director of the university's
academic computing center.  Prior to joining UCSF, Dr. Doyle was Director of
the Biomedical Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
where he was active in the area of scientific informatics and collaborated
with several members of National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the
birthplace of Mosaic.

According to Dr. Doyle,"We recognized early on that the Web could be
expanded beyond the limits of plain vanilla HTML document browsing to become
an all-encompassing environment for interactive applications.  We then
developed an enhanced version of the recently-announced NCSA Mosaic program
that added technology which enabled Web documents to contain
fully-interactive "inline" program objects, called Weblets (by Eolas), which
one could manipulate in place using the enhanced Mosaic program."

The first Weblet created was an interactive 3D medical visualization
application which employed a three-tier distributed object architecture over
the Internet to allow a "farm" of powerful remote computers to generate
images of internal human anatomy in response to the Mosaic user's
interactive commands, all from within Mosaic.  This allowed a user with
nothing but a low-end networked workstation and the Eolas browser to
transparently access supercomputer-level power and interactively look inside
an MRI scan of the human body which was embedded within a Web page.

The Eolas technology will soon be available for licensing.  Information and
demonstrations are available at the Eolas World Wide Web home page
(http://www.eolas.com).  Further information can be obtained by sending
email to info@eolas.com.

-- 

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Received on Tuesday, 2 September 2003 00:01:48 GMT

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