RealTime IT News
Eolas Seeks to Stop Microsoft IE Distribution
By Thor Olavsrud
October 08, 2003

Eolas Technologies, the company which has successfully sued Microsoft for using its patented technology in the Internet Explorer browser, is now asking the U.S. District Court in Chicago to permanently enjoin Microsoft from distribution of the browser.

If granted, the injunction would stop Microsoft from shipping any version of Internet Explorer or the Windows operating system which includes the patented technology, explained Richard Martinez of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, the firm representing Eolas. Martinez said the injunction would not prevent Microsoft from shipping versions of those products which had been stripped of the patented technology.

The motion, filed on Monday, came a day before Microsoft released details of its plan to put out a new version of Internet Explorer (IE) early next year with "modest changes" to the way the browser handles embedded content on Web pages, thereby side-stepping the Eolas patent, which covers technologies for the creation of a browser system that allowed for the embedding of small interactive programs like plug-ins, applets, scriptlets or ActiveX controls.

Eolas is the licensee and sublicensor of the patent (US Patent 5,838,906), issued Nov. 17, 1998, to the University of California. In August, the court awarded Eolas and the University of California $521 million in the company's patent infringement suit.

Eolas is still examining Microsoft's plans for the new IE, but has not made a determination if it still infringes on its patent, Martinez said.

"They obviously have not kept us involved in either their discussions to change the product or the actual work leading up to it," Martinez told internetnews.com. "We're obviously taking a look at it. We're still reviewing it."

In the meantime, the company wants Microsoft to stop distributing the current browser. Martinez said that the current court schedule means the judge will likely not rule on the motion until November or December at the earliest.

For its part, Microsoft has said that it plans to appeal the District Court's ruling in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and has pointed to the fact that the lower court rejected claims of willful infringement.

"We believe the evidence will ultimately show that there was no infringement of any kind, and that the accused feature in our browser technology was developed by our own engineers based on pre-existing Microsoft technology," the company said in a statement in August, when the Chicago court announced its award.

The case is being closely watched by members of the technology industry, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body which oversees the standards and specifications which cover browsers and World Wide Web technologies, has claimed that Eolas' patent has implications for the World Wide Web in general, including its specifications.

That body has also said that changes to the IE browser may affect a large number of existing Web pages. Microsoft has already discussed its proposed changes with the W3C.

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment