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Internet: Microsoft case goes sour for internet software (IE)
Published on March 1, 2004 By joetheblow In Internet
Source: CNET

Judge rules Microsoft infringed on Eolas patent
Last modified: January 14, 2004, 5:40 PM PST
By John Borland
Staff Writer, CNET

A Chicago federal judge on Wednesday upheld a $521 million patent verdict against Microsoft that could ultimately force major changes in many of the most common Internet software products.

Judge James Zagel said he saw no reason to overturn an August jury verdict that said Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browsing software had infringed on patent rights held jointly by small developer Eolas Technologies and the University of California.

As part of his decision, Zagel barred Microsoft from distributing versions of its Web software that include the potentially infringing technology. However, he immediately put that injunction on hold until an appeal has run its course. Microsoft is expected to appeal immediately.

"This motion rehearses a set of arguments that failed the first time around," Zagel wrote in his opinion. "While I am not entirely comfortable with the large size of the judgment, it is not my comfort that matters."

The August ruling set off a mild panic in the Web developer community, which fears it may have to change the way that many basic Web page functions are created or triggered if Eolas is ultimately victorious in its suit.

The Eolas patent covers technology used to call up separate applications, such as a media player or document viewer, within a Web page.

Web programmers have spent much of the past several months scouring programming history to find what is called "prior art," or evidence that other people had invented the technology before Eolas, in order to try to invalidate the patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has opened a rare hearing to investigate the validity of the patent.

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