Patent News | "Jury strikes down Eolas' 'Interactive Web' patent"

By: Steven Musil
Category: Patent News 

Web companies such as Google and Amazon won a closely watched patent-infringement lawsuit today when a jury ruled that a patent central to the complaint was invalid.

A federal jury in Tyler, Texas, deliberated for just a few hours this afternoon before concluding that all of Eolas Technologies' claims of ownership to a patent related to the "Interactive Web" were invalid, according to a Wired report. Also challenging the validity of the patents were Adobe Systems, CDW, JCPenney, Staples, and Yahoo.

Eolas and the University of California contended it was due $600 million in royalties from the Web companies for alleged violation of a patent its founder Michael Doyle, along with two co-inventors, were awarded back in 1998. The company and the University of California, which co-owns the patents because they originated from work Doyle did while employed by the school, claimed a host of Web sites were infringing on the patent by way of online video streaming, search suggestions, and other "interactive" elements on pages.

More than a dozen companies were named in the original 2009 lawsuit, including Adobe Systems, Amazon, Apple, Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, Go Daddy, Google, J.C. Penney, JPMorgan Chase, Office Depot, Perot Systems, Playboy Enterprises, Staples, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, Yahoo, and YouTube. However, Office Depot, Rent-A-Center, Playboy, Oracle, and others have already opted to settle with Eolas.

The father of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, testified in the case earlier this week that allowing the patents to be upheld could prove to be a major threat to the Internet as it's known today. Berners-Lee welcomed news of the ruling, tweeting, "Texas jury agreed Eolas 906 patent invalid. Good thing too!"

A Google spokesperson said the company was pleased with the ruling, adding that "it affirms our assertion that the claims are without merit."

The patent-holding company has used its many patents to sue companies over the years. The company's best-known suit was against Microsoft, when it argued that the software giant's Internet Explorer used plug-ins and applets that infringed a patent it held. Microsoft was able to appeal an early ruling that required the company to pay Eolas more than $500 million, but eventually settled the case out of court for an undisclosed--but reportedly massive--sum.