Friday, July 20, 2012

Eolas Web Browser Plug-in Patent Falls Short?

Joe Mullin's article Patent troll takes last shot at owning "interactive web," but falls short reminds us high stakes patent litigation often involves multiple defendants and can stretch on for years. Mr. Mullin's article is about the Eolas patent involving browser plug-ins asserted against Microsoft in 1999 and later many other tech companies. The subject matter is described in U.S. Patent Nos. 7,599,985 and 5,838,906.

I tuned into the case after a federal court awarded Eolas and the University of California $565 million for Microsoft's browsers infringement of the Eolas patent in 2004. I was hunting for a topic at the time, because U.C. Berkeley had invited me to speak in exchange for three nights at the Lair of the Bear family camp. Since the University of California stood to gain major money, and it involved the Web and Microsoft, the Eolas case sounded like a good topic. The University of California agreed and gave us a "speaker's cabin" with a faded tie dyed sheet door.

Oh well, the food was excellent, we met lots of great people, and to my surprise many showed up to hear me talk about patents at night. The question asked repeatedly was how much did the U.C. Regents stand to gain? 25% of $565 million! Everybody seemed happy to hear this.

Afterward Microsoft fought hard to overturn the judgment eventually settling with Eolas. The U.C. Regents part was reduced to a little over $30 million. After Eolas sued a number of tech companies which recently led to the patent being held invalid despite previously overcoming invalidity challenges from Microsoft in the courts and the PTO.

If you are interested in the Microsoft case, here's a link to my power point slides: Microsoft ordered to pay $565 million for infringing Eolas & UC's web browser patent. By Robert Moll Patent Planet July 11-13, 2004.

Copyright © 2012 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.