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Microsoft holds off on Eolas-based tweaks

The software maker says it won't change Windows or Internet Explorer until its efforts to appeal Eolas Technologies' suit or invalidate the patent are settled.

Microsoft said it will delay making any modifications to its Windows operating system and Internet Explorer Web browser, based on the Eolas patent case.

Microsoft said in a statement Thursday that it will hold off on implementing previously announced changes until its efforts to appeal the suit or invalidate the patent are settled.

News.context

What's new:
Despite setbacks in the Eolas patent case, Microsoft will delay making any modifications to its Windows operating system and Internet Explorer Web browser.

Bottom line:
Any tweaks could inconvenience thousands of Web developers and other software companies and may not be necessary because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may invalidate Eolas' patent.

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Web software company Eolas Technologies sued Microsoft in 1999, claiming that software that allows Internet Explorer to use plug-ins and other external software infringes on a patent it holds jointly with the University of California.

A federal court in Chicago ruled in favor of Eolas last year, ordering Microsoft to pay $521 million in damages.

That ruling was upheld a few weeks ago, but the judge delayed the imposition of penalties until Microsoft's appeal is heard. Besides the monetary fine, those penalties include an order barring Microsoft from distributing any version of IE or other software that infringes on Eolas' patent, an action that could render many Web sites inoperable with the dominant Web browser.

Microsoft originally said it would make minor tweaks to IE and Windows XP to bypass some of the disputed technology, but it backed off those plans in Thursday's statement. "Given the present legal status, as well as requests made by partners and customers, Microsoft will, for the time being, not move ahead with the modest steps it intended to take to modify Windows and Internet Explorer, as a result of the August jury decision in the Eolas patent lawsuit," according to the statement.

Microsoft said in the statement that the proposed tweaks could inconvenience Web developers and other software companies and may not be necessary, if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidates Eolas' patent. The federal office has launched a rare review of the Eolas patent, based on claims that other people had developed similar technology before Eolas.

"The action by the patent office may result in the cancellation of the Eolas patent," according to the Microsoft statement. "Given these circumstances, and after consulting industry colleagues and developers, Microsoft, for now, will not be releasing an update to Internet Explorer and does not plan on making the changes it announced in October to Windows XP Service Pack 2."