Wang filed the patent claim last fall. Leonie Brinkema, District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, ruled that Wang's patent on the early-1980s "Videotex" system was "generically and fundamentally different" from Internet Web browsers and related technologies.
Wang claimed infringement of patents that let users save and rename Web pages to their hard drive using the "Save As" command under the file menu; save and rename Web bookmarks; and save file formats (such as .pdf or .gif) and later retrieve and display them.
Last month Netscape launched a campaign through its recently established Mozilla organization to marshal the global community of developers to help it defend against the patent infringement lawsuit from Wang.
Originally created with the stated goal of fostering and guiding a community of developers working with the newly open Comminicator source code, Netscape posted a call on Mozilla that elicited several hundred responses of "relevant prior art and additional arguments distinguishing Videotex from the Web," the company said.
Judge Brinkema held that Wang's patent did not cover pages displayed on the Web and that Videotex was a closed system that relied on one central database supplier, unlike the multifaceted information suppliers that deliver content to the Web. Thus, the judge concluded, Netscape's browser and AOL's client software did not infringe Wang's patent, according to a statement released by Netscape.
Phone calls to Wang headquarters in Billerica, Massachusetts, were not returned.
Netscape executives hailed the judge's decision as a "significant victory" not only for Netscape and its recently released source code, but also for the Internet development community at large.
Wang also sued Microsoft in 1993, claiming that Microsoft's object linking and embedding technology infringed on Wang's patents. The 1995 settlement of that suit resulted in a patent cross-licensing agreement that covers the browser technologies at issue in the Netscape suit.