Tim Berners-Lee In Court To Try To Prevent Patent Troll Eolas From Patenting Key Web Concepts

from the not-this-again dept

Remember Eolas? We've written about this infamous patent troll many times, mostly focusing on its big patent fight with Microsoft over the idea of browser plugins -- a case it eventually settled. In 2009, however, Eolas came back and basically sued the web, claiming that all sorts of very basic web technologies were, in fact, infringing on a brand new, ridiculously broad patent (built on the earlier patent), 7,599,985.

However, that case has finally gone to trial, and Wired has sent Joe Mullin -- hands down the best reporter on all things concerning patents -- to cover the case. His initial report is worth reading. Unfortunately, he notes that many of the companies Eolas sued chose to settle, helping to fund Eolas' ability to take this to court. Eight companies remain fighting. Eolas is asking for $600 million from these companies -- including over $300 million from Google and Yahoo.

As he had done nearly a decade ago, web inventor Tim Berners-Lee was called to explain to the court that Eolas' claims are ridiculous and the patents should be tossed out due to tremendous amounts of prior art. Berners-Lee also pointed out that these patents "could be a serious threat to the future of the web." He didn't mince words, noting that all of this stuff was widely known in the community of technologists working on these issues well before Eolas ever came along.

Last summer there was tremendous attention paid to the problem of patents within the tech space, but much of that furor died down after the patent reform bill became law -- even though it addressed almost none of the actual complaints about how the patent system hinders innovation. Once fall came, a lot of focus shifted back to copyright issues around SOPA. But people should be very, very worried about the outcome of this case, because if it goes badly, it could lead to a massive tollbooth on internet innovation.

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  1. identicon
    Ximing Huang, 24 Feb 2012 @ 11:39pm

    to pay the patent fees after one has money whilst reduce the examination demand

    I have an idea which might be infavor of both the poor individual inventors and also the USPTO. This may enable those invidual inventors to pay the high sum of patent fees later and relieve the burden of the USPTO.
    For a patent application, if it is published after 18 months from the filing date, then it should be examined only when the applicant make a request. While before the very time he makes the request, his application shall not be protected so everyone may use the published invention roylty free even it is granted sometime later. This bargin is to prevent the applicant to sell his patent application while without paying the patent fees for that time.
    As a result, there are two merits:
    For the poor individual inventors, he may request an examination when he has found the buyer of the invention.
    For the USPTO, many applications which do not mean to be carried out at all shall not be examined at all to allow the USPTO have much more time to examine those really in a hurry.

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