Services & Software

Eolas' 'Interactive Web' patents invalid, appeals court affirms

The patents were used to extract hundreds of millions from tech companies online video streaming and search results suggestions.

One of the tech community's longest patent nightmares appears to be officially over.

The Eolas patents, which were reportedly used to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees from companies such as Microsoft, appear to be dead after a U.S. Appeals Court upheld a lower court decision that major portions of the "Interactive Web" patents were invalid. Monday's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., which came without comment, represents finality in the matter for Web companies such as Google and Amazon and host of other companies.

Google said in a statement it is "pleased with the court's decision." CNET has also contacted Eolas Technology, the plaintiff in the case, and will update this report when we learn more.

Eolas, commonly referred to as a patent troll, and the University of California sued a host of tech companies in 2009, contending they were due $600 million in royalties for infringement of the patents by way of online video streaming, search suggestions, and other "interactive" elements on pages. The patents were awarded to Eolas founder Michael Doyle and two co-inventors in 1998 for work they originated while Doyle was employed by the University of California, making the school a co-owner of the patents.

Before a federal jury in Tyler, Texas, concluded in February 2012 that the patents were invalid, Tim Berners-Lee, widely considered one of the fathers of the Internet, testified that allowing the patents to be upheld could pose a major threat to the Internet as its known today.

The 2009 case was just one of many the patent-holding company filed over the years. Perhaps the company's best-known suit was against Microsoft, which Eolas accused in 1999 of infringing on patents through plug-ins and applets used by the software giant's Internet Explorer. Microsoft appealed a 2003 ruling that required the company to pay Eolas $565 million but eventually settled the case out of court for an undisclosed -- but reportedly massive -- sum.

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.

Office Depot, Rent-A-Center, Playboy, Oracle, and others opted to settle with Eolas.

(Via ArsTechnica)