• United States
by Matt Berger

Web patent suit against Microsoft goes to trial

Dec 20, 20023 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

A federal court judge in Chicago has set a date for a trial over a patent infringement charge against Microsoft involving technology used in its Windows operating system and Internet Explorer Web browser.

Eolas Technologies, a research and development firm based outside of Chicago, said in a statement Friday that a jury is set to hear the case beginning July 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Eolas — later joined by the Regents of the University of California — filed the lawsuit against Microsoft in February 1999 alleging that the Redmond, Wash., software maker was infringing on browser technology it developed to allow interactive content to be embedded in a Web site.

Eolas was issued a patent in November 1998 based on work completed by a team led by Michael Doyle, a former professor at the University of California who went on to found Eolas. Doyle is also the company’s CEO.

The company has been seeking a permanent injunction to force Microsoft to stop manufacturing, using and selling all products it says infringe on the patent, including versions of Internet Explorer and of Windows dating back to Windows 95.

Microsoft has developed and patented its own technology, called ActiveX, that allows Web content to change dynamically based on information that is delivered to a browser from a server or database. It argued Friday that it has not infringed on Eolas’ patent.

“Microsoft is an intellectual property company, and we respect intellectual property rights,” said legal spokesman Jim Desler. “As for this case, clearly it’s moving ahead in the process, and we believe that there’s been no infringement.”

Microsoft originally asked District Court Judge James Zagel to issue a summary judgement in the case, and rule that Eolas’ patent was invalid, Eolas said in a press release. Zagel denied the request, which would have resolved the dispute without going to trial.

The patent under dispute, number 5,838,906, can be viewed on the Web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It describes in part “a system allowing a user of a browser program… to access and execute an embedded program object.”

In addition to ActiveX, Java developers also use a similar “applet” technology, and AOL Time Warner’s Netscape division developed a plug-in technology for its browser for delivering interactive content.

Doyle has acknowledged that the patented covers a broad technology that could apply to a number of products on the market. However, Netscape and Sun Microsystems, the inventor of Java, have not been named in any suits.