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Invalidation of Eolas's Web Patent Claims Upheld

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the ding-dong-the-troll-is-dead dept.

Patents 72

New submitter Ajay Anand writes with news that Eolas's web patents are really dead (the infamous browser plugin patent that forced Internet Explorer to change how it activated plugins). After Eolas sued a number of companies, last fall a jury found the patents invalid; Eolas naturally mounted an appeal. But a panel of judges simply affirmed the jury decision (PDF). A quiet ending to a decade of patent trolling.

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at what cost? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365303)

So... how much money was spent to make the right decision?

$565+ million (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365399)

At least $565 million, which was the amount owed by Microsoft and the University of California.

Numerous others signed licensing agreements.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eolas

Re:$565+ million (3, Informative)

rijrunner (263757) | about a year ago | (#44365881)

Actually, the University of California is *owed* money. It does not owe money. The University of California is the original patentee.

Re:$565+ million (1)

dotbot (2030980) | about a year ago | (#44365937)

FTFY:

Actually, the University of California is 'owed' money.

Re:$565+ million (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44370481)

FTFY:

Actually, the University of California is 'owed' money.

FTFY: Actually, the University of California is owed money.

The true cost is technological impedance (1)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44367671)

It's not all a matter of dollars and cents. Patents effectively block others from using technology/methods which fall within the scope of the patent, regardless of whether or not it may be the most efficient/commonsensical way of doing things.

Here is a description of the Eolas patent [cnet.com] :-

The '985 patent, originally filed Aug. 9, 2002, involves a program embedded in a Web page--or "hypermedia document," as the patent language calls it more generally. Here's an excerpt from the patent abstract's description of the technology:

The present invention allows a user at a client computer connected to a network to locate, retrieve, and manipulate objects in an interactive way. The invention not only allows the user to use a hypermedia format to locate and retrieve program objects, but also allows the user to interact with an application program located at a remote computer.

Interprocess communication between the hypermedia browser and the embedded application program is ongoing after the program object has been launched. The use is able to use a vast amount of computing power beyond that which is contained in the user's client computer.

Eolas sued all the big companies such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, Texas Instruments, Microsoft, Office Depot, Staples, Playboy, Sun, Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, J.C. Penney, JPMorgan Chase and Adobe.

To dodge the patent, Microsoft changed how IE worked [internetnews.com] .

It is good that the companies ultimately decided to fight the patent, and won. If the patent was allowed to fester, in the case of IE the alternative proposal was to require users to click on a dialog box for every ActiveX control that appeared on a page. Similar changes would probably have been required in respect of webpages maintained by the other companies. If you visit any of the websites run by any of the companies sued, it is likely that the way you access their functions would be different from what it is now (and probably require more clicking and/or be more annoying).

Re:The true cost is technological impedance (2)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#44367899)

"n the case of IE the alternative proposal was to require users to click on a dialog box for every ActiveX control that appeared on a page."

That should have been the default fucking behavior in the first place.

Re:at what cost? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365413)

It doesn't matter. Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Google and others paid for this result, didn't they?

Re:at what cost? (3, Insightful)

GumphMaster (772693) | about a year ago | (#44366459)

Last I checked it was the State that paid for judges, court officers, court facilities, jury expenses, etc. It matters because tax payer money was expended supporting a series of shameless private money-grabs through through to its (some would say inevitable) conclusion. The time and money expended from public coffers could have better been spent on legal matters of public worth.

Re:at what cost? (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about a year ago | (#44368181)

Do courts charge costs in the US in civil cases?

Re:at what cost? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | about a year ago | (#44368201)

I assume so. However, if it is anything like Australia the award of costs is to the winning party to partly (only) offset their costs in bringing the action. It is not the cost of the court itself. Some of the court's actual costs are recouped through fees for lodgement, transcripts and the like.

Re:at what cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369741)

Yes. For many states, it's a profit center. Granted criminal cases eat back a lot of it, but considering a single corporate civil case, court costs are frequently enough to make it break-even or better for the court.

Re:at what cost? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44369943)

Yeah, isn't it awesome how the serfs get to fund the battle domes for the rich boys' games? Let's keep telling them that society would fall apart if they didn't.

Re:at what cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365579)

Wrong question. How much money did Eolas extort *prior* to this decision?

Re:at what cost? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44366077)

Wrong question. How much money did Eolas extort *prior* to this decision?

Plus what they patent troll out of smaller firms over the years.

The mafia must be kicking themselves they wasted their time with protection rackets, which were illegal, when they could have been doing this.

'ey, 'enry. c'mere a sec. we got a patent on a car wid a motor in it. it would be unfortunate if we had to see each other in court over dis.

Re:at what cost? (1)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#44366235)

The mafia must be kicking themselves they wasted their time with protection rackets, which were illegal, when they could have been doing this.

Allegedly, the mafia started casinos as a way to launder money from their other activities. Turned out the casinos were profitable enough on their own to make the illegal activities not worth the additional risk.

Re:at what cost? (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44366591)

Enough to appeal to the Supreme court and keep their patent licensing scam moving for a few more years in the US, considerably longer in the rest of the world. These lawyers have plenty of time to endow their retirement funds.

Re:at what cost? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44368013)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eolas [wikipedia.org] gets you started

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/02/interactive-web-patent [wired.com] and from the last paragraph,
Those companies include: Apple, Argosy Publishing, Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, JP Morgan Chase, New Frontier Media, Office Depot, Perot Systems, Playboy Enterprises International, Rent-A-Center, Sun Microsystems (bought by Oracle while this litigation was underway), and Texas Instruments.

http://www.law360.com/articles/146435/argosy-first-to-settle-with-eolas-in-web-patent-suit [law360.com] has what I would guess to be an informative article but it's behind a paywall.

For the amounts of settlements, good luck. Many if not most entities settling out of court do not, or are enjoined so can't, divulge amounts. Often one has to go on rumor, "unidentified sources" and the like. But do look at the names of the companies who settled; most have fairly deep pockets even on small margin.

Re:at what cost? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44366057)

So... how much money was spent to make the right decision?

So far...

Eolas are like Freddy or Jason, no matter how many times you think they are dead, they rise again. SCO does this, too.

Re:at what cost? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#44374609)

Eolas are like Freddy or Jason, no matter how many times you think they are dead, they rise again. SCO does this, too.

SCO is more comparable to zombie movies... they're already dead but they keep coming for more

Give back the $$ they extorted? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365491)

Do they have to now give back the money they extorted?

If not, they won.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (2)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44365529)

I don't know about these particular "settlements" but typically a patent troll will have a clause in the settlement contract that specifies that even if the patent is invalidated later, the payment is still due.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#44365615)

I'm not a lawyer but I would imagine such a clause would be invalid on its face due to the lack of consideration on the part of the patent holder at that point. The licensee would essentially be paying for nothing.

Perhaps they got more creative than I'm thinking with the contract terms.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44365703)

Perhaps they got more creative than I'm thinking with the contract terms.

I'm thinking it would be as simple as licensing multiple patents, so that the consideration is the remaining patents in their portfolio.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44365735)

The licensee would essentially be paying for nothing.

Which is essentially what happens now.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (5, Interesting)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#44365837)

Precisely, in fact the entire valid/invalid thing is moot. Because they chose to settle out of court, they are beholden to the legal whims of he with whom they settle. So no matter how egregious the terms and conditions, they are the terms and conditions to which they agreed.

Now a real interesting development happened a little while back, John Fogerty was sued by the current owner of CCR IP, for plagiarizing himself with his newer music (in the early 90s his career took off again when the 20 years of bondage ended and he could make and sell new music that didn't automagically belong to someone else.) In court the greedy bastard that sued him made it perfectly clear owning CCR wasn't enough, that even though he was no longer under contract, he had every intention of keeping John under his thumb for the rest of his natural life and take everything he made for his own benefit. The Judge informed said scumbag that a songwriter sounds like that songwriter because HE IS THAT SONGWRITER... that CCR songs sound like CCR songs and one would only expect that future songs by that artist might have a similar style. The case was crushed.

But here where it get's interesting. Part of the reason nuisance suits have been so effective is that defending them, leave you with a terrible court expense whether you win or lose. John asked the court, can I sue this ass-hat to recover my court costs? The judge said go for it, and John got most of 2 million dollars in court costs back. If these Corporate giants are so inclined, they might want to spank Eolas so hard that their great grandchildren hurt. This would set a very cool precedent to future Patent Trolls, yes, the rewards are great, but if your patent is 99% smoke and you go up against guy with legal larger than the population of Rhode Island, well you might just wanna think twice.

That and start-ups should get together and create Troll Insurance. Bring in the EFF and couple of other heavy hitters and clean this Troll problem up once and for all. By all means, someone infringes on your patent, your personal invention, you deserve recompense. You decide you're going to build a portfolio of bullshit patents to tax society because you're a greedy scumbag, not so much.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44366079)

By all means, someone infringes on your patent, your personal invention, you deserve recompense. You decide you're going to build a portfolio of bullshit patents to tax society because you're a greedy scumbag, not so much.

But this is where I have a problem. Whether it's owned by a greedy scumbag or not, the invention is worth something.

(1) The inventor deserves recompense. Does that mean the inventor has to stand on a factory line and assemble each and every widget that uses his invention in order to get paid for it? Obviously not.

(2) In order to make money from his invention, he licenses it to a factory who makes the widgets including his invention. So we have someone licensed to use it, and the inventor getting paid. Nothing wrong there.

(3) One year out, and the inventor is tired of dealing with the factory, so he decides to sell his patent to them. He's made his decision, and he agrees with the payment amount, and he knows this is the last money he'll ever see from his invention. Is this a problem?

(4) Before approaching the factory for the sale, the inventor asks his lawyer to draft a contract to protect his rights in the deal, and make sure it's fair. The lawyer writes all the correct language, so it's a fair trade of money for rights that is considered equitable to both sides. Is there a problem having a lawyer represent him in this transaction? Doesn't sound like it.

Two years out and the factory realizes there's little market for widgets anymore, and they don't have anything else to do with the patent which they paid $10 million for, but someone else is interested in it for a different purpose. Do they have to make the other things themselves? Not according to #1. Can they license it to another factory? According to #2, yes. Can they sell it to an investor? The inventor did in #3. Can the investor use a lawyer to protect his interests? Once again, the inventor used a lawyer in #4.

So with this argument, we've established that intellectual property rights are a thing that can be bought and sold by the inventor, and can be sold to anyone, including an investor. The investor can hire a lawyer, or even be a lawyer. And I don't think we disagree that there's anything wrong with this scenario, even though "investor & lawyer" is just a nicer word for "patent troll".

So why is it that patent trolls are so bad? They may be the face of greed, but they got there through capitalism, and we just established that it's a perfectly legitimate path. I think the core of the problem is not necessarily with the patent trolls, it's with the very idea of software patents.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44366263)

Whether it's owned by a greedy scumbag or not, the invention is worth something. ... The inventor deserves recompense.

Agreed with in principle, but:

The patents were invalidated. That means the person or company who filed them did not invent anything, thus did not invent anything that is "worth something", and thus does not deserve recompense.

They should be held liable for all patent licensing fees (and any fines) paid to them for the invalidated patents. Court costs and damages as well, if they were knowingly attempting to license invalid patents (i.e. if they knew or had reasonable suspicion there was prior art).

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44366463)

Agreed with in principle, but:

They patents were approved by the State sanction group for making such a decision. They had a right to assume they were valid and worthwhile at that point. Unless someone can prove fraud or something shady going on between them and the Patent Office, this would seem like a case of making something illegal after the fact.

I'm not saying they were good patents, I'm just saying if they were really that cut and dried it would not have taken this long. There was uncertainty involved. Should they be held liable for that? I don't think so, and I _really_ hate Patent Trolls. But I don't see a good way to deal with the situation the other poster in this conversation is arguing about; I think they make a very good point.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44368061)

The patent office is a simple administration office and will validate a patent as long as he formatting and language of the patent is done correctly. They may even bounce the patent at least once or at random to increase due diligence by the 'inventor', or just to increase the fees needing to be paid to the patent office.

The patent office will not look at fitness of a patent and will not search for prior art, this, according to the patent office, is something for the courts to decide.

Sadly the courts say that fitness and prior art is something that the patent office needs to decide, so we have an interesting catch 22.

not all massage places are whore houses (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44366947)

I think 90% of what you said is right. The problem, I think, is the assertion that "lawyer & investor" is a nicer way of saying "patent troll". Sometimes that's a euphemism, sometimes it's not.

"Dancer" sometimes means "stripper" often means "hooker". But not always. I have a friend who is a professional dancer. She is not a stripper. She even dances with a pole, yet she doesn't take off her clothes.

I learned the other day that more than half of all patent suits are filed by just 16 NPEs. vThere are millions of investors. Hundreds of thousands of people and companies have patents. All of them put together don't file as many patent suits as those 16 trolls. So those trolls behave entirely differently from the other thousands of patent holders. Those few trolls are the problem.

By the way they don't only troll patents that can be represented in software. They troll hardware patents, business process patents, and design patents. One of them even trolled a patent on rectangles! :). Rounded corners teach us that the problem isn't "software" patents. The problems are a) bad patents and mainly b) patent trolls. take care of those 16 patent trolls and you're reduce patent suits by 64%. Not all investor lawyers are trolls. 16 of them are and those 16 need to be dealt with.

Re:not all massage places are whore houses (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44367837)

OK, but what makes a patent troll different than an investor plus a lawyer? There has to be something that makes the trolls stand out. Is it the volume of patents? Why is that wrong? Is it the aggressive lawsuits? Can an inventor not defend his rights? Is it the quality of those patents? If they haven't been invalidated in court, again, why?

To use your analogy, a hooker performs a different act than a stripper, or a dancer, and that act is considered illegal. What act are the trolls performing that is different than the average inventor who holds a patent ?

I'm not trying to defend the rat-bastards, but there has to be a legal reason or justification for taking them down, and I just don't see it.

Re:not all massage places are whore houses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369059)

OK, but what makes a patent troll different than an investor plus a lawyer? There has to be something that makes the trolls stand out. Is it the volume of patents? Why is that wrong? Is it the aggressive lawsuits? Can an inventor not defend his rights? Is it the quality of those patents? If they haven't been invalidated in court, again, why?

To use your analogy, a hooker performs a different act than a stripper, or a dancer, and that act is considered illegal. What act are the trolls performing that is different than the average inventor who holds a patent ?

I'm not trying to defend the rat-bastards, but there has to be a legal reason or justification for taking them down, and I just don't see it.

The classical test for "patent troll" is that the alleged troll has never developed the patent, doesn't have the resources to develop the patent, nor has licensed anyone else to do so, but assaults en masse only after an idea has become widespread. While it is possible in some cases for a legitimate patentholder to realize late in the game that a patent is being widely infringed, patent trolls are famous for doing this as a matter of routine.

More cynically, filing in East Texas is also a good indicator, but I doubt that it would be accepted as a legal definition for patent troll.

Actually, in the case of trademarks, when you don't vigorously protect the mark, it can become genericized and you lose it. If the same applied to patents, the ability to troll would be virtually eliminated.

Re:not all massage places are whore houses (0)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44369759)

So it's all in the timing. They give time to allow as many unsuspecting violators as possible to build up dependencies on the patented technology, then pounce.

Someone else builds the trap, baits it, but then abandons it. A trolls wanders the forest, looking for abandoned traps full of prey, sends a check to the guy whose name is written on the trap, then springs it.

Thanks!

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44367959)

But that's not what happens. Instead, the troll buys up the patent before a single widget is produced. Then they stick it in a filing cabinet and hope someone accidentally steps in it. But they don't jump right up and try to ink a deal, they sit back and wait for the poor soul who stepped in their patent to start making real money, THEN they strike.

Sometimes the trolls even help the 'inventor to file the patent. In that case, they obfuscate the language of the patent as much as possible to minimize the odds of the above mentioned poor soul seeing the trap and stepping around it. Meanwhile, they keep hammering away at the patent examiner until the patent is accepted.

That would be bad enough, but then they also pull dirty tricks like interpreting the patent so broadly that it defies reason but demanding just a bit less than the cost ti litigate in the hopes that the victim will take the pragmatic route of paying the extortion.

Make no mistake, they are thieving scum. If not in the patent business they would likely be selling 'accident insurance' or scamming littl old ladies door to door.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#44374663)

they got there through capitalism

no they didn't... when a government agency (USPTO) uses its power to affect markets and limit competition, that's kinda the opposite of capitalism

capitalism is where you compete with other players on an even playing field

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (2)

thomst (1640045) | about a year ago | (#44367199)

Genda observed:

Now a real interesting development happened a little while back, John Fogerty was sued by the current owner of CCR IP, for plagiarizing himself with his newer music (in the early 90s his career took off again when the 20 years of bondage ended and he could make and sell new music that didn't automagically belong to someone else.) In court the greedy bastard that sued him made it perfectly clear owning CCR wasn't enough, that even though he was no longer under contract, he had every intention of keeping John under his thumb for the rest of his natural life and take everything he made for his own benefit. The Judge informed said scumbag that a songwriter sounds like that songwriter because HE IS THAT SONGWRITER... that CCR songs sound like CCR songs and one would only expect that future songs by that artist might have a similar style. The case was crushed.

But here where it get's interesting. Part of the reason nuisance suits have been so effective is that defending them, leave you with a terrible court expense whether you win or lose. John asked the court, can I sue this ass-hat to recover my court costs? The judge said go for it, and John got most of 2 million dollars in court costs back.

The scumbag in question was Saul Zaentz, owner for many decades of Fantasy Records, in Berkeley, CA. (CCR started as a high-school band called the Golliwogs in El Cerrito,-about a ten-minute drive from Fantasy's studio). FWIW - he spent a large amount of the songwriting royalties he screwed Fogarty out of making the movie Amadeus.

He sued Fogerty over the song, "The Old Man Is Down The Road" - but what pissed him off enough to doggedly pursue the case was "Zaentz Can't Dance" (later changed to "Vantz Can't Dance", after Zaentz filed a defamation action).

It's a VERY personal conflict.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44367989)

Thanks for that backstory - it helps make sense out of that mess.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year ago | (#44369127)

However contract law is bound by criminal and nothing in a contract can ever exceed the bounds of criminal without invalidating the whole contract. So would a contract where the original patent ceases to exist have merit ie. paying something for nothing and only doing so under extortion of threat of bankruptcy due to civil action. So could the contract be invalidated, regardless of conditions of contract, where the initiating cause of the contract proved false, especially as the direct fault of a third party, in this case the US patents office falsely providing a patent that was latter invalidated in court. Could they even have a case against the US patents office.

Re:Give back the $$ they extorted? (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#44371669)

No, they still won. They held back a whole decade of innovation and advance. A decade might be nothing for aerospace, but it is a long time when it comes to software.

Arguably, they could have spurred some advances by forcing engineers to come up with clever solutions to work around it. But the original patent was so over-broad that there probably wasn't such a solution.

"A quiet ending to a decade of patent trolling" (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44365515)

If only that were true...

Re:"A quiet ending to a decade of patent trolling" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365677)

+1 Saddening?

Good ridance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44366273)

Unfortunately this might only be a melted tip of the iceberg.

Will this have any real significance? (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a year ago | (#44365623)

In other words will it create precedence for future legal settlements?
Personally i don't think so. Because, just like with everything else that is about economics, the legal system follows the money, through lobbyism or directly by political interference.

Not quite a troll (4, Interesting)

rijrunner (263757) | about a year ago | (#44365651)

A lot of people are jumping in here claiming patent troll, but I remember enough about where the state of the Internet was in 1993 to feel that he was sincere in these patents. They did release a browser. they did offer licensing.

At the time he started development, there were under 100 total websites on the entire planet. A lot of people were pushing applications development to direct connect to services. For example, If you played internet chess, you opened XBoard, then pointed at a chess server. A lot of others were pushing other application specific services. There were competing paradigms in how things were going to develop. The whole idea of a web browser handling everything was not even close to being universally accepted.

So, he gets a patent. Launches a browser, but after Netscape launched their browser. No real traction with VC's as they were dumping their money into providing the services. The browser tanks, so he offers the tech for licensing. Microsoft among others says no. Then, Microsoft submits a set of patent applications that cover the exact same stuff under different names, then incorporates that tech into IE.

I dunno. Sure. Looks like a troll. He is suing to get money from his invention. But, then again, where Microsoft is concerned, he had a very solid case that they stole his ideas. He met with them, then they declined to license the technology, then they submitted patents covering the same material.

Now, given what we know now, embedded apps within HTML looks obvious, but there were other competing ideas and this one just won out. From our perspective in 2013, this was a clear winner, but when he patented it? Not so sure. And, under current laws of first-to-file, this patent would have held up.

I think the main problem I have with people claiming trolls is this: Whether a product is successful or not - in this case a browser, the IP behind it is still valid. If I invent a widget, but get swamped by companies with bigger bankrolls, that does not mean people can just take those ideas after my business goes under. IP is still property. The *only* reason this was overturned by prior art is because Microsoft decided it was cheaper to void their own patents rather than pay the lawsuit they lost.

Was there prior art? Yes... by a couple months. Did he know about it? There is enough doubt in that to overturn the patent. Was he strictly a troll? Nope. The date here is so early in development of the WWW that there were competing paradigms and multiple approaches being argued and discussed. He legitimately thought this was a valid patent.

Re:Not quite a troll (4, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year ago | (#44365775)

If if what you say is true, and I'm not sure it is, you have completely missed the point. Eolas was awarded bogus patents. They did not "invent" anything that should have be patentable.

Re:Not quite a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44368313)

Did you miss what he just said?

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#44365795)

it was obvious why his patent was invalidated... it didn't have rounded corners!

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

heteromonomer (698504) | about a year ago | (#44365851)

This. Mod parent up. If only we could get some informed opinion on Slashdot as opposed to categorical judgments based on group think and most often without even RTFA.

Re:Not quite a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365993)

You are talking about Slashdot where group think rules supreme, articles are never read and alternative thought is shouted down.

Re:Not quite a troll (4, Informative)

Jaime2 (824950) | about a year ago | (#44366053)

The patent was the poster child for "obvious patent". The reason they were so successful in court was that everyone who created a web browser added similar functionality. The standard response to this is "of course it's obvious in hindsight", but the court case shows that someone implemented the idea before Eolas, putting the nail in the coffin of that train of thought.

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44368319)

So he goofed not noticing, or he tried to scammily patent something he new was already invented?

Those are two completely separate ways to understand what happened.

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#44367923)

" If only we could get some informed opinion on Slashdot"

Your chosen champion is full of shit so trying to raise them higher than your supposed standards is a stupid move, pleb.

Only 100 websites in 1993, my motherfucking ass.

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#44366017)

Sorry, but methods and ideas should not be patentable. Period. It was the correct decision.

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44366889)

But that doesn't make him a patent troll.

Website-specific mobile apps (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#44366089)

A lot of people were pushing applications development to direct connect to services. For example, If you played internet chess, you opened XBoard, then pointed at a chess server.

And the Internet has since come full friggin' circle, with dedicated mobile applications to access particular services.

Re:Website-specific mobile apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44368771)

And the Internet has since come full friggin' circle, with dedicated mobile applications to access particular services.

Yeah, but only because Apple was incapable of making a decent working browser for iPhone. That's why they created the whole app-for-every-service thingie.

And people bought that idea, thinking it was better.

Re:Not quite a troll (3, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#44366095)

I remember the time too. And I know that embedding objects into documents was all the rage in 1993. And even from systems to systems. CORBA's first spec was published in 1991. OLE and COM were combined into DCOM about the same time. I had university lessons in the CORBA and the DCOM object model at the time. So I would call Eolas' patents obvious in 1993.

Re:Not quite a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44366265)

Embedding in HTML isn't worth a patent, HTML is just another method for presenting content. Pulling in dedicated modules based on a page being show has been trivial and common in green-screen programming since the 80s, and probably well beyond.

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44366885)

I agree. Even if the patent is invalidated, it does not make the wannabe patent holder into a troll. I think people are seriously misusing that term in their haste to label everyone a troll. A patent troll should be a set of lawyers attempting to extract license fees from a patent or invention they did not originally create, or an attempt to extort license fees through fear of litigation. However someone who did the work (or thought he did) and created the patent and is attempting to make money from that work should not be considered a troll even if the patents end up being nullified.

Basically there are several issues that need fixing with the patent system, and they shouldn't all be lumped together into a single "troll" category.

Judge a man by his acts (3, Interesting)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44367893)

They did release a browser. they did offer licensing.

Right after another browser had been released, two years prior, incorporating the very same elements Eolas patented. What the inventor of this prior browser freely gave to the world (he declined to patent it), Eolas tried to keep for themselves by patenting it.

Lets talk about specific facts instead of hand-wavy personal feelings.There was prior art. [cnet.com]

One piece of prior art in particular, the Viola browser, invented by Perry Pei-Yuan Wei, an artist, software engineer and then a student at the University of California at Berkeley. That browser dates back to 1991 and its plug-in capabilities to 1992, nearly two years before Eolas filed for its patent.

Since you are referring to the state of the internet at that time, lets hear from Tim Berners-Lee [wired.com] himself how it was like :-

Berners-Lee described Viola as “an important part of the development of the web.”

The jury was shown an e-mail from Pei Wei to Berners-Lee dated December 1991 — almost two years before Doyle’s invention — which read in part: “One thing I’d like to do soon, if I have time, is to teach the parser about Viola object descriptions and basically embed Viola objects (GUIs and programmability) into HTML files.”

Later Tuesday, Wei would testify that he had demonstrated interactive elements working in the Viola browser to Sun Microsystems in May 1993 — several months before Doyle claims to have come up with his invention.

Berners-Lee described how the web community at that time wasn’t focused on patents or even money — Wei simply put his invention online for free.

If you read the decision of the US Federal Court of Appeal [typepad.com] , it is clear that Eolas was aware of the invention of Viola because Pei Wei himself told them on 31 August 1994. Eolas went to Pei Wei's website and downloaded and read his paper. They went ahead anyway and filed their patent on 17 October 1994.

As for whether or not the Eolas patent was obvious, it was so obvious it was even mentioned in the 1991 letter to Berners-Lee.

So. If you rush to patent something obvious that was already shown by someone else, so that you can use the patent to sue large numbers of companies for money, what are you called?

Re:Not quite a troll (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#44367919)

"At the time he started development, there were under 100 total websites on the entire planet."

Yea, uhhh, the wayback machine says you're full of shit, buddy.

And if you knew what you were talking about, you'd have already used the wayback machine as a source for your info.

PROTIP: 1993 saw well more than 100 websites, you lying shill.

And the guy who founded Eolas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365705)

He's set for life, with millions and millions of dollars for doing nothing else but sue for the past ten years.

Didn't Microsoft pay them billions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44365719)

I thought Microsoft lost over and over to them, and in the end paid them a fortune. Isn't Eolas the 'front end' to some dodgy university? Still, very good if another filthy patent troll is finally put down.

PS yeah, I know I could Google to refresh my memory, but then there wouldn't be much of a convo.

PPS I am getting the impression that putting down patent trolls is easy IF the defence against them in court STOPS using high-powered lawyers, and starts using very smart nerds who know how to find prior art, and dissect crappy patent applications. Juries are made up of (very) ordinary people. Big companies with their filthy legal sharks in their 5000 dollar suits do NOT speak to the people. Even worse when political correctness means the company defending against trolls uses female advocates, patronising the jury (and this comment is obviously in reference to IT cases, not court cases in general).

A simple relating of the truth to the jury by people who know what they are talking about, because they live and breath software, stands the greatest chance of making an impact. How many software patents have even a whiff of validity? Maybe less than one in ten thousand, and then NEVER the patents held by trolls.

Re:Didn't Microsoft pay them billions? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#44365841)

PPS I am getting the impression that putting down patent trolls is easy IF the defence against them in court STOPS using high-powered lawyers, and starts using very smart nerds who know how to find prior art, and dissect crappy patent applications

that's exactly why as much as microsoft has made a lot of noise about linux patent violation, they can't do anything about it... in a court of law linux is bulletproof

now all we need is for an overzealous multinational software corporation to step up and prove it :)

Re:Didn't Microsoft pay them billions? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44366711)

that's exactly why as much as microsoft has made a lot of noise about linux patent violation, they can't do anything about it... in a court of law linux is bulletproof

That is not even close to true. Don't wrap yourself up in a false sense of security or you may get burned alive in it.

Re:Didn't Microsoft pay them billions? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#44369225)

That is not even close to true.

if microsoft could have done anything to stop the linux juggernaut in court they would have already and you know it

Don't wrap yourself up in a false sense of security or you may get burned alive in it.

only users of Windows with "antivirus" are wrapped up in a false sense of security

Re:Didn't Microsoft pay them billions? (2)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44366019)

PS yeah, I know I could Google to refresh my memory, but then there wouldn't be much of a convo.

"Convos" concerning facts are much more insightful than "Convos" concerning speculations, so exert yourself and google away.

Dear Eolas (2)

fnj (64210) | about a year ago | (#44366541)

Rot in peace you low-life slimy fat lazy pigs.

Let's pin the tail on the right donkey (1)

jphamlore (1996436) | about a year ago | (#44366773)

Remember, all of this patent litigation is the fault of the anti-Vietnam War movement's scapegoating of science. The Mansfield Amendment(s) banned the Department of Defense from funding basic research in the universities, breaking the system that had come into existence after World War II demonstrated the value of government funding of basic research. The funding was transferred from the politically powerful Department of Defense to the politically powerless National Science Foundation.

With funding cratering, the Bayh-Dole Act attempted to leverage whatever funding was left by allowing universities to patent the fruits of government funded research instead of formerly assigning intellectual property back to the federal government. And so the universities rushed to have their professors patent anything they could think of.

The Eolas patent litigation is a direct result of this sequence of events, the patents arising from University of California research.

Software-type patents are a problem unique in their virulence to the United States. There must therefore be an explanation in US history why this system has developed as it has. But unfortunately the real people responsible won't admit their fault.

Re:Let's pin the tail on the right donkey (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44369731)

Remember, all of this patent litigation is the fault of the anti-Vietnam War movement's scapegoating of science.

Ridiculous assertion.
Firstly, you say "all this patent litigation" when clearly the correct scope is "patent litigation related to university created/held patents", i.e. not "all" at all.

Secondly, you blame an entire movement for the Mansfield Amendment(s) when probably 99% of that movement was just concerned with stopping the war and probably never even knew about these amendments before or after they were passed.

Thirdly, you ignore the fact that it's highly likely that the relevant change (allowing universities to exploit patents) would probably have come about sooner or later anyhow.

Suffer little patent troll (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about a year ago | (#44368555)

What sucks is under American rules they don't have to pay their victims massive legal bills defending the suit. The victims get nothing to cover this or the incredible waste of time.
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