Eolas, the troll that asserted ownership over pretty much everything anyone ever wanted to do on the Web, has been sent packing, with a US court invalidating its patents.
The case, launched in 2009, had generated worldwide interest and attracted Tim Berners-Lee as a witness. Eolas was claiming ownership over embedded browser applications, plug-ins, and AJAX. Some vendors – including Oracle and Texas Instruments – had chosen to settle with Eolas (incidentally helping fund its ongoing legal campaigns), but Adobe, Google, JC Penney and Yahoo! stood their ground.
According to Bloomberg, other cases against Facebook, Wal-Mart and Walt Disney were stayed pending the outcome of this trial.
In 2012, a jury trial cleared the Web giants of infringing Eolas patents, a decision which the company appealed. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington has now upheld the original decision and invalidated the patents.
The patents in the case were the 1998-dated US 5,838,906, which allows “a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object”; and 2009's nearly-identical US 7,599,985.
In an early hearing on the case, Berners-Lee had written that the patent was “improperly disruptive” and that upholding it would “substantially impair the usability of the Web”.
A decade ago, Eolas, partly owned by the University of California, had sued Microsoft over Internet Explorer, a half-billion-dollar case whose ultimate out-of-court settlement during Redmond's appeals yielded around $US30 million for the University. ®