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Judge rules Microsoft infringed on Eolas patent

From: Richard M. Smith <rms@computerbytesman.com>
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 22:00:18 -0500
To: "W3C Public Web Plugins List" <public-web-plugins@w3.org>
Message-Id: <E1Agxk7-0002qV-00@smtp03.mrf.mail.rcn.net>

Judge rules Microsoft infringed on Eolas patent

Last modified: January 14, 2004, 5:40 PM PST
By John  <mailto:jborland@cnet.com?subject=FEEDBACK:Judge rules Microsoft
infringed on Eolas patent> Borland 
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

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A Chicago federal judge on Wednesday upheld a $512 million patent verdict
against Microsoft that could ultimately force major changes in many of the
most common Internet software products. 

Judge James Zagel said he saw no reason to overturn an August jury verdict
that said Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browsing software had infringed
on patent rights held jointly by small developer Eolas Technologies and the
University of California. 

As part of his decision, Zagel barred Microsoft from distributing versions
of its Web software that include the potentially infringing technology.
However, he immediately put that injunction on hold until an appeal has run
its course. Microsoft is expected to appeal immediately. 

"This motion rehearses a set of arguments that failed the first time
around," Zagel wrote in his opinion. "While I am not entirely comfortable
with the large size of the judgment, it is not my comfort that matters." 

The August ruling set off a mild panic in the Web developer community, which
fears it may have to change the way that many basic Web page functions are
created or triggered if Eolas is ultimately victorious in its suit. 

The Eolas patent
nl_ex>  covers technology used to call up separate applications, such as a
media player or document viewer, within a Web page. 

Web programmers have spent much of the past several months scouring
programming history to find what is called "prior art," or evidence that
other people had invented the technology before Eolas, in order to try to
invalidate the patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has opened a
rare hearing to investigate the validity of the patent. 

Microsoft has said that it believes that the Eolas patent will ultimately be
found invalid, either by the courts or by the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office. It has already released versions of IE that try to sidestep some of
the patent's claims, and has advised other Web
<http://news.com.com/2100-1032-5074799.html?tag=nl> developers to do the

"We remain confident that on appeal, when people hear this though, they will
see that--as we claimed--the patent is not valid," Microsoft spokesman Lou
Gellers said. "We don't think we violated anything even if it were valid." 

Marty Lueck, an attorney for Eolas, applauded the ruling, in part because it
would move the process to the appeals court more quickly. 

"This forces the appeal process to begin and brings us another step closer
to full resolution of case, which we would welcome," Lueck said. "Microsoft
is a difficult opponent." 

Eolas founder Michael Doyle said that the company would be happy to settle,
but that Microsoft has not responded to Eolas' overtures. 

The software giant has 30 days to file a notice of appeal in the case. As
part of his ruling, Zagel said Microsoft must pay more than $45 million in
"prejudgment interest" for the infringement while the appeal is mounted. 

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Received on Wednesday, 14 January 2004 22:00:23 UTC

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