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Jury strikes down Eolas' 'Interactive Web' patent

Patent-holding company claimed a host of Web giants owed it hundreds of millions in royalties for their use of online video streaming, search suggestions, and other "interactive" elements on pages.

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.