Eolas Patent Rejected

Gretchen Gallen
SILICON VALLEY – In a landmark decision that could have far-reaching implications for other pending patent infringement lawsuits, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the validity of a 1998 patent licensed to Eolas Technologies Inc. However, the decision announced Monday is not yet finalized and could be subject to change.

The U.S. Patent Office's move to reexamine the patent, while not yet permanent, could have a resounding effect on a patent infringement judgment against Microsoft Corp. in which the software giant was accused of using Eolas technology in its Internet Explorer browser.

U.S. Patent 5,838,906 protects the execution of remote code embedded in hypertext pages and has already been through a lengthy review in court during the infringement lawsuit in which Eolas won a $521 victory, although Microsoft is in the process of appealing that decision.

The decision to reexamine the patent reportedly comes on the heels of a request from the World Wide Web Consortium to invalidate the 1998 patent based on the existence of "prior art" and the widespread belief that the technology Eolas lays claim to has been an integral part of the Web long before patent was issued.

Today's decision also follows criticism that the U.S. Patent Office is overwhelmed by patent applications and that it lacks the proper resources and staff to properly handle the deluge of paperwork that it processes on a daily basis.

According to Computer World, the patent office has only reexamined 151 patents since 1988, as opposed to the estimated 4 million patents issued in the same amount of time.

The patent is licensed to Eolas by the University of California Regents.

Industry analysts are predicting that the patent office's decision will bode well for Microsoft in its appeals process. According to reports, Eolas and the University of California now have two months to respond to the patent office's decry. There is already word that UC Regents plans to appeal in court if their claim is rejected.