The Net wins: Sue-happy holder of "Interactive Web" patent loses court battle

Patent firm Eolas Technologies lost an appeal against Google, J.C. Penney, Yahoo and Amazon.com in a long-drawn lawsuit involving key Web patents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed without comment on Monday an order by a federal court in Texas, which had ruled in July last year that several claims relating to the two patents in the suit were invalid.

Eolas in Tyler, Texas, filed a patent infringement suit in 2009, accusing 22 companies including Adobe Systems, Google, Yahoo, Apple, eBay and Amazon.com of unlicensed use of its patents in websites and other products.

Some of the companies including Texas Instruments and Oracle settled and signed licensing deals with the company. Microsoft earlier settled a similar lawsuit.

A jury in Texas in February last year gave the verdict that two patents that enable Internet browsers to host "interactive" applications were invalid. Eolas said in its complaint it is an exclusive licensee to the patents which were assigned to the Regents of the University of California.

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Eolas and the university had in August last year informed the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler division of their intention to appeal its July 2012 order and previous rulings.

The case attracted considerable attention with British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited with inventing the World Wide Web, and Pei-Yuan Wei, who developed a web browser called Viola, testifying in the case.

The testimonies confirmed that Viola disclosed the claimed inventions before Sept. 7, 1993, the date Eolas claimed it had conceived the technology, and ahead of Eolas’ subsequent filing for a patent, the defendants said in a filing.

The decision by the appeals court comes in the wake of concerns about unnecessary and sometimes frivolous patent disputes by “patent assertion entities,” sometimes described as patent trolls, whose main business is allegedly to collect licensing fees and damages from technology companies. The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama issued in June five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations designed “to protect innovators from frivolous litigation.”

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