Eolas Sues Almost Everybody Over Browser Apps

Two years ago, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) negotiated an out-of-court settlement with tiny startup Eolas Technologies over patent rights to embed applets and plug-ins in browsers. That came after two re-examinations of the validity of Eolas’ patent, both upheld, and a court award of $565 million against the software titan.

Tuesday, after receiving a continuation patent on the technology from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Eolas sued 23 more companies — both a who’s who of technology firms such as Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), as well as household names like J.C. Penney and PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay.

“Eolas has a technology invented about 15 years ago that’s widely being used,” Eolas CEO Mark Swords told InternetNews.com. “There are companies we feel are infringing our technology, so we’re asking them to give us reasonable compensation,” he added.

The company’s lead law firm, McKool Smith, filed the case in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Eolas’ original suit against Microsoft included claims related to U.S. Patent No. 5,838,906 (‘906 Patent). Meanwhile, a second patent, U.S. Patent No. 7,599,985 (‘985 Patent), was granted Tuesday, thus triggering the filing of the new lawsuit.

“The ‘985 Patent is a continuation of the ‘906 patent, and allows Web sites to add fully-interactive embedded applications to their online offerings through the use of plug-in and AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Web development techniques,” Eolas said in a statement.

The tiny firm is a spin off from the University of California, which owns the patent rights and shares the royalties with Eolas. However, UC is not involved in the current lawsuit, Swords said.

The so-called “906” patent was granted in 1998 and withstood multiple attempts by both Microsoft and other interested parties to have it declared invalid. Eolas filed suit against Microsoft in 1999.

After losing the case in 2003, Microsoft appealed but finally quietly settled with Eolas in August 2007 for an undisclosed amount. The final re-examination of the 906 patent gave it a clean bill of health in February 2009.

Other technology companies on the alleged infringers list in the new suit include The Go Daddy Group and Perot Systems. On the non-tech company list is an even more eclectic mix of alleged infringers, including Blockbuster, Rent-A-Center, Citigroup and Playboy Enterprises.

Since the suit was only filed Tuesday, no schedule for the case has been set.

“Adobe does not comment on pending litigation,” an Adobe spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail. Attempts to reach some of the other defendants in the suit were unsuccessful.

Microsoft has had spotty luck regarding patent infringement suits. Last week, a federal district judge in Rhode Island overturned a $388 million damages award and infringement verdict against Microsoft by another tiny firm, Uniloc USA.

In mid-September, a federal appeals court found that, while Microsoft had infringed one of Alcatel-Lucent’s patents, the damages award of $358 million was exorbitant and sent that case back to the lower court to have the damages reassessed.

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