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Eolas vs. Microsoft Lawsuit Settled and Sealed

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the another-biggie-comes-to-a-close dept.

Patents 45

theodp writes "The Seattle P-I's Todd Bishop reports that Microsoft has settled its 8-year-old web browser plug-in patent dispute with Eolas. The spat begat the click-to-activate Web after Microsoft was slapped with a $500+ million patent infringement judgement. Neither Eolas nor Microsoft will be disclosing terms of the deal, although Eolas told investors to expect a dividend (PDF). Microsoft didn't say whether or how the settlement would affect its approach to the underlying technology in IE or other programs. Just last month, the USPTO issued a non-final rejection of the patent's claims, citing the work of Pei-Yuan Wei as prior art."

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Excellent (3, Insightful)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423279)

Sounds as though the end is nigh for the useless extra clicks. Eolas deserves a smack. Too bad they're getting rewarded.

Re:Excellent (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423349)

How does Eolas deserve a smack for this? The entire idea of software patents encourages this sort of behavior. If anyone deserves a smack it is whoever has the power to eliminate software and business practice patents and fails to do so.

Re:Excellent (1)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423415)

Bah, I can choose whether or not to do bad things. The people running Eolas are no different. Love how you posted anonymously, too, btw. If you're going to say anything, stand behind it. Hidin' is for wussies.

Re:Excellent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423603)

Businesses can choose to not act like this, but I don't see how punishing them for behavior encouraged by the very existence of software patents is right. Get rid of software patents and this sort of thing stops happening.

((I don't approve of the slashdot way of pre-judging comments based on the posters friend and foes lists, order they joined, or their karma - so I always post AC, as far as I'm concerned that makes me barely more anonymous than anyone else here - except I don't have to be in a clique))

Re:Excellent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423709)

There is nothing wrong with a software patent, unless you take the position that you are entitled to the work of others. Surprise, anonymous socialist cowards stand up for their right to help themselves to what others have worked to achieve. Never thought I'd see that around here.

Re:Excellent (1)

redcane (604255) | more than 7 years ago | (#20432183)

Eolas deserves a smack for extorting money from Microsoft, even though their patent has been rejected (according to summary). Whilst I did chuckle that MS had to pay money for something so simple, I though it impossible there was no prior art, or that running a flash object without clicking is not obvious!

Flash where it shouldn't be (2, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20425251)

I have one thing to complain. While you have to click to play a video you already clicked, the annoying web adds do play instantly! :-S

The world isn't fair...

What extra clicks? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423293)

Oh, that's right, I use a good web browser (Firefox|Safari|Opera).

Re:What extra clicks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423511)

Welcome to the new Slashdot, where insulting Microsoft's products is frowned upon.

Re:What extra clicks? (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#20424497)

That's the good side of being poor. Only the fattest duck get slayered when a hungry patent pirat attacks.

Re:What extra clicks? (1)

Zarel (900479) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426779)

Oh, that's right, I use a good web browser (Firefox|Safari|Opera).
Note that Opera still requires a click to activate a Flash control.

what????? (3, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423297)

Two public companies reach an agreement and the terms are not released to shareholders? What is this? Science fiction?

Re:what????? (4, Informative)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423387)

Wait for the next quarter's report when they'll have to disclose it. SEC rules are fun.

Re:what????? (2, Informative)

Jayfar (630313) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423425)

"Eolas is privately held, and the letter does not disclose the total number of shares outstanding in the company."

So no disclosure from Eolas. It remains to be seen how effectively ms can hide the terms and dollar amount in their quarterly reports.

Re:what????? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423481)

One good use for Sarbanes-0xley.

Re:what????? (2, Interesting)

jim_redwagon (845837) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423501)

don't know the exact law/act/SEC rule, but my thoughts are MS will be able to bury it under a cost of doing business line item. especially one that's been used to pay fines/compliance for any anti-trust happiness they've been involved with.

Re:what????? (2, Informative)

yaddayaddaslashdot (811353) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426109)

Public companies generally are required to disclose settlement terms if they are material.

Last quarter Microsoft's gross revenues were somewhere north of $14 billion. If they paid 500 million to Eolas (and presumably it was less than that, given the verdict of $521 million and the fact of a pending reexam that might kill the patent), that's way less than 5% of their revenues for one quarter. Most securities experts would say that isn't material.

And the other terms of the agreement probably amount to saying that Microsoft can do what it used to do. That's not material, either.

Finally, as TFA says, Eolas is not, in fact, public, so has no public disclosure obligations.

Dear baby Jesus, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423413)

Please help me get laid tonight.


Click twice pain... (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423445)

Figures this double click plugin problem would go away, especially after I had spent my precious development time implementing the stupid external JavaScript workaround on every applet in my companies software.

Then I had to document it, explain it to the non-technical retards in QA and Product Support, and get the blessing from change management to include it in the latest service pack.

All for nothing.

Re:Click twice pain... (1)

monk.e.boy (1077985) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423531)

Yeah, we've just spent ages figuring out all the quirks of swfobject...

Oh well. I guess we'll still need to use it for all the losers on IE6? Or will they back port the patch?

... but. Really. Who cares? Get Firefox or Opera and get on with your life.


Re:Click twice pain... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423859)

Now that Microsoft has settled, who is next on the list? It may well be Opera or the Mozilla foundation. Beware, more lawsuits are probably coming.

Re:Click twice pain... (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423963)

That was my initial thought.
The question really hinges on whether the patent remains valid given that Microsoft chose to settle, I hope someone better versed in US patent law could give us some sort of answer.

(although uninformed speculation may be more fun... :) )

Re:Click twice pain... (1)

senatorpjt (709879) | more than 7 years ago | (#20424175)

It probably also hinges on the terms of the settlement, which are of course, unknown.

Re:Click twice pain... (3, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 7 years ago | (#20424389)

Can I ask why you would come to that conclusion? It was the only one I ignored using the following reasoning:

The process to invalidate the patent was clearly initiated, surely it is in the public interest to remove invalid patents, regardless of the outcome of any particular case. Its not like the settlement would establish any sort of precedent, never mind the fact that Microsoft or Eolas's statements on the matter shouldn't have any bearing on whether the patent is valid or not, especially since there is an established method for testing the validity of patents.

I may be being naive of course.

Re:Click twice pain... (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#20435129)

Won't be Opera. They've already put the "workaround" to the patent in Opera.

yo0 fail 1t... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20423563)

Here, pleaSe do offended some

Change in law (2, Interesting)

sqldr (838964) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423573)

The "dividends" part of this topic gives away the problem. A more mercenary person would now be slapping themselves for not investing in Eolas - and thus contributing to the problem and making money out of it.

There's one thing (another story) with suing over a frivolous patent if you make the product, but this company only exists to take money off another and give it to people who've done no work whatsoever.

Simple. Freeze the shares of a company who files an IP suit over a patent they're not using. If a company only has one patent and plans to start making something with it, they needn't worry - they can still make money from their product while getting an injunction against the competitor.

Re:Change in law (3, Insightful)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423829)

Simple. Freeze the shares of a company who files an IP suit over a patent they're not using.
  1. Company announces it will sue and shares rise
  2. Company sues and shares are frozen at this higher price
  3. Directors get $$$$s by e.g. borrowing against the shares
  4. Profit!

Re:Change in law (1)

bob_herrick (784633) | more than 7 years ago | (#20427585)

It will be interesting to see how they use those frozen shares as collateral. Since they cannot be sold, who would lend on their 'value?'

but how... (1)

TheAxeMaster (762000) | more than 7 years ago | (#20425307)

How do you put that into law? IANAL or wouldn't even attempt to write a law, but I've been behind the idea of revoking a patent that a company isn't actively using/developing a product with after a set period of time (3 years?). This would prevent IP holdings companies from existing very effectively. But I'm also a proponent of reforming the patent law back to 7 years and we see how far that is getting...and the copyright law, etc.

Hurry!! (3, Funny)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423723)

What's the ticker symbol for Eolas? I uh ... just want to check their um ... corporate history. Nothing to do with the upcoming dividend. No sirree.

Eolas privately held (2, Informative)

Jayfar (630313) | more than 7 years ago | (#20423819)

No ticker - Eolas shares are privately held.

Re:Hurry!! (1)

bodino (240393) | more than 7 years ago | (#20424601)

Just in case you didn't RTFA (*I'm shocked!*), it claims:

Eolas is privately held, and the letter does not disclose the total number of shares outstanding in the company.

Re:Hurry!! (1)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 7 years ago | (#20424703)

I was trying to be funny, but thanks. :)

For the layman (2, Funny)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 7 years ago | (#20424579)

So let me get this straight...Eolas pattented Clicking?

And Microsoft couldn't find any prior art for a toggle switch?

Re:For the layman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20425243)

No, they patented more-or-less "automatically running an application embedded in a web page".

Re:For the layman (5, Informative)

silentben (1119141) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426797)

In a nutshell, Eolas had a patent pending for some form of integrated media into web pages. When IE supported Flash, Eolas saw this as infringement and sued Microsoft. Since then, MS designed new versions of IE to require you to click on a Flash element in order to activate it, thereby no longer being fluid. But they left a back door in that if a developer included the Flash object by having a separate javascript file write it to the page, then this would not require clicking to activate it (enter SWFObject as the lay-developers easy way out). I just hope that this settlement included some exchange of words that discouraged Eolas from pursuing similar charges against Mozilla and other browser developers. It is bad enough they had effected change with THIS frivolous lawsuit.

Re:For the layman (1)

hoooocheymomma (1020927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20430443)

I seem to remember that Eolas has stated that open source projects will not be targeted in the way microsoft was (hence mozilla not being pursued ).

It's worse... (2, Funny)

Urusai (865560) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426895)

...they patented NOT clicking.

Misread the headline (1)

ThanatosMinor (1046978) | more than 7 years ago | (#20425813)

Although I would like to see who would win in a fight between Microsoft and Ebola.

Re:Misread the headline (1)

deft (253558) | more than 7 years ago | (#20430561)

I don;t think anyone around here would be able to distinguish between the two fighters.

Backward Steps (1)

mateuscb (1052870) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426273)

The US needs to do something about patents laws! If I'm not mistaken Vonage is still in trial with Verizon, now this Microsoft thing, and I'm sure others out there. It's gotten to a point where patents are holding technology back. Technology should never be held back by bureaucracy. But unfortunately that is where we are headed. Simply put, our patent system is quite sad, and yet another example of how the mighty USA is falling behind and in essence shooting itself in the foot.

Doyle is a douche bag and a poor looser (1)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426817)

Maybe he will try and launch WebRouser (again), watch it fail miserably (again) and decide that Firefox is actually worth going after when he runs out of M$ money.

Why sealed? (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 7 years ago | (#20426945)

How is it in the public interest for this agreement to be sealed? Any suit that goes on, using public resources along the way, should not be eligible for this "feature" of settlement, i.e. "sealing" the settlement agreement. The public has the right to know the details.

Re:Why sealed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20429069)

Wasn't the BSD settlement sealed? And wasn't it made available through some FIA request, or something? And can the same be applied here?
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