12 May 2004 Eolas Technologies has issued a 10-page response to the move by the US patent authorities to invalidate its controversial patent, which is at the core of the company’s $521 million lawsuit against Microsoft.
In March the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) claimed that the patent may have been wrongly granted and revoked it, following a complaint from Microsoft that was supported by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of HTML. That decision tipped the case in Microsoft’s favour.
Eolas, a spin off from the University of California, had originally claimed that Microsoft had infringed its patent, filed in 1994, which describes how plug-ins and ‘applets’ such as Flash animation or media players can be run within web browsers.
In August 2003, it won the case and the software giant was ordered to pay up $521 million. If the USPTO decision is upheld, it will not only spare Microsoft from having to pay out, but also prevent it from having to alter its Internet Explorer web browser to remove the offending technology.
The USPTO ruling contained examples of so-called ‘prior art’ intended to prove that the invention existed prior to the filing of a patent. In response, Eolas submitted two declarations that “basically reiterated the arguments we set forth in the trial,” according to Eolas lawyer Marty Lueck.
Microsoft, which has refused to comment on the response, is currently preparing its own appeal to the patent infringement decision, which will commence next week. However, Lueck remains confident of Eolas’s chance of success.
“We believe that the trial court made no errors of law and he juror’s verdict is supported by substantial evidence, so we believe we should win,” he said.
Lawyers have warned that the case is likely to last “years”.
US patent office backs Microsoft against Eolas (8 March 2004)
US Patent Office to re-examine Eolas web patent (12 November 2003)
Berners-Lee sides with Microsoft in patent dispute (30 October 2003)
Microsoft loses $521 million patent infringement lawsuit (14 August 2003)