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10 February 2012, 11:29

Eolas's claim on the "interactive web" invalidated in court

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Patents icon A 2009 patent suit launched by Eolas against Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Google, Yahoo, YouTube and many others, which claimed ownership of the "interactive web", has come to an end with an eight member federal jury in Tyler, Texas deciding that the company's patent was invalid. Eolas had maintained that its patent 5838906 gave it the right to claim royalties from anyone who embedded interactive elements into web pages.

Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, Adobe, JC Penney, CDW Corp and Staples were defending themselves against Eolas's claim for, in total, over $600 million in damages, mostly from Google and Yahoo. Many have pointed out the prior art that invalidates Eolas's 906 patent yet it has survived a number of re-examinations at the US Patent and Trademarks Office. Eolas can still appeal the court's ruling, but that will take time and during that time it can't use the patent against any new targets. Apple, eBay, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, Office Depot and others who were also sued by Eolas had previously settled with them.

The defence teams presented the jury with evidence from web pioneers. These included Dave Raggett, creator of the <embed> tag, and Pei-Yuan Wei, who created the Viola browser and who, with Scott Silvey, in 1993 demonstrated a program called V-Plot which rotated an image of a plane within Wei's browser. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, also testified at trial on the importance of Wei's work with the Viola browser and discussions in 1991 about embedding Viola objects in HTML files. Berners-Lee told the court "It was ahead of its time. The things Pei was doing would later be done in Java". Eolas filed their patent in 1994. It appears that the testimony of the pioneers of the web was influential in the jury's decision.


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